The Crown Dependencies of Jersey and the Isle of Man are both consulting on legalising assisted suicide (and euthanasia), while the House of Commons Health Committee has also announced an inquiry.
With regrettable scheduling, there are three public engagement exercises on assisted suicide and euthanasia running in tandem over the festive period, across the British Isles. All three close within a fortnight of each other in mid-January.
Campaigners for assisted suicide in the UK describe the possibility of law change in Jersey, the Isle of Man and Scotland as "piling on the pressure for MPs in Westminster" (where English and Welsh law on assisted suicide is decided): these debates have far-reaching and inter-related implications throughout these islands.
William Church of the Jersey Dying Well Group writes:
"Jersey is currently midway through a consultation process looking at how to implement assisted dying in Jersey, but how have we got to this point? The current consultation is asking for public opinion on who would be eligible and how the process would be implemented. Many in our community remain shell-shocked that we are in this position at all.
"In November 2021, the previous government voted 'in principle' to legislate for 'assisted dying' and to make arrangements for the provision of an assisted-dying service.
"Prior to this, a citizens' jury sat from March to May 2021, and it was their considerations that led to the current consultation.
"What many people don't know - and don't appreciate - was that the selection of this jury was in no way balanced."
The current consultation envisages assisted suicide and euthanasia for terminally and chronically ill people, and invites responses to 33 questions.
Following a well-attended and informed debate on 11 September 2015, a private member's bill to allow assisted suicide for terminally ill people was overwhelmingly rejected by MPs, by 330 votes to 118. Activists have not let up in their efforts to bring about law change, including a failed attempt earlier this year to hijack Government health legislation. Now:
"The Health and Social Care Committee has launched an inquiry into assisted dying/assisted suicide. We would like to hear your views, which will inform the report we write and the recommendations we make to the Government."
The Committee uses the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology's definition of "assisted dying" (a reminder that the term has no natural or settled definition and is employed primarily as a softer-sounding euphemism):
"Assisted dying refers here to the involvement of healthcare professionals in the provision of lethal drugs intended to end a patient's life at their voluntary request, subject to eligibility criteria and safeguards. It includes healthcare professionals prescribing lethal drugs for the patient to self-administer ('physician-assisted suicide') and healthcare professionals administering lethal drugs ('euthanasia'). It is an offence (in England and Wales) to assist or encourage another person's suicide under section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961. Euthanasia is illegal across the UK under the Homicide Act 1957 and could be prosecuted as murder or manslaughter."
Individuals are directed to a six-question survey, while experts, organisations and those wishing to submit more detailed responses are directed to eight open form questions.
In June 2022, Dr Alex Allinson (a Member of the House of Keys, lower house of Tynwald) was given leave to by fellow MHKs to introduce a Private Member's Bill,
"to enable adults who are terminally ill to be provided at their request with specified assistance to end their own life."
Dr Allinson hopes to bring draft legislation before the House of Keys by May 2023, off the back of the current consultation which envisages assisted suicide for terminally ill adults (without specifying a life expectancy).