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New Jersey Moves Forward with Legislation on Assisted Suicide

It may take up to 18 months to draft the law. If approved, there will be an 18-month implementation period, potentially leading to the law coming into effect by 2027.

Members of the States Assembly in Jersey have endorsed the drafting of a law to allow assisted suicide on the island for terminally ill adults experiencing “unbearable suffering.”

After a discussion in the assembly, politicians voted to approve a proposal by the Council of Ministers on assisted suicide, urging the health and social services minister to introduce primary legislation on the matter.

Creating a law in the Bailiwick of Jersey, a self-governing British Crown Dependency, could take 18 months, with a debate scheduled by the end of 2025. If the States Assembly agrees on the draft law, an 18-month implementation period would begin before it becomes effective, potentially around summer 2027.

Members also voted on two routes for eligibility. Route 1 pertains to terminal illness, involving individuals with a life expectancy of less than 6 or 12 months if they have a neurodegenerative condition like Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease, and are going through “unbearable suffering that cannot be alleviated in a manner the person deems tolerable.” The proposition was approved with 32 votes for and 14 against.

Politicians dismissed an option to broaden the law known as Route 2, which suggested assisted suicide for those with incurable physical conditions that are not terminal but are causing “unbearable suffering” and cannot be alleviated in a way the person deems tolerable.

Another provision allowing healthcare professionals to refuse participation in assisted suicide was accepted.

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Assembly members also approved the proposal of the fifth vote for setting minimum timeframes between a person officially requesting assisted suicide and the act taking place.

Assisted Suicide Around the British Isles

Jersey is not the only region in the British Isles contemplating assisted suicide.

Members of the House of Keys (MHK) on the Isle of Man, another self-governing British Crown Dependency, are discussing its Assisted Dying Bill. The agreed terms thus far stipulate that an applicant must have resided on the island for at least five years and be predicted to have a life expectancy of one year or less.

Debates will resume on June 11, and if passed, the bill could undergo a third reading in the House of Keys—the lower house of the Tynwald, the Isle of Man’s parliament—in the summer before moving to the Upper House.

In Scotland, a legislator introduced a bill for assisted suicide for the terminally ill. The proposer, Liam McArthur, a member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), suggested that the minimum age to access assisted suicide should be 16, the legal capacity age in Scotland—a point expected to be scrutinized by the committee.

If the proposals are voted on later this year at Holyrood, it would mark the third time MSPs have been asked to consider assisted suicide, following previous unsuccessful attempts to change the law.

A report by the Health and Social Care Committee in February cautioned that the UK government would need to contemplate appropriate action if the law changes in part of the UK or in Jersey or the Isle of Man.

The government stated it would engage with crown dependencies and devolved administrations to discuss “the practical implications for England and Wales” of laws in neighboring jurisdictions “and any constitutional issues that such legislation may present.”

‘Pandora’s Box’

A non-binding Westminster Hall debate occurred in Parliament last month. MPs from various political backgrounds supported legalizing medically-assisted suicide, highlighting how it offers individuals with terminal conditions a dignified death and spares families from witnessing loved ones suffer.

Campaigners protest outside Parliament ahead of a debate in the House of Commons on assisted dying in Westminster, London, on April 29, 2024. (Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire)
Campaigners protest outside Parliament ahead of a debate in the House of Commons on assisted dying in Westminster, London, on April 29, 2024. (Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire)

However, critics cautioned that the eligibility constraints for assisted suicide could potentially expand beyond individuals with terminal conditions, pointing to cases overseas where young individuals with PTSD and depression have accessed state-sponsored euthanasia.

During a demonstration outside the Westminster Hall debate, Dr. Mark Pickering, spokesperson for Care Not Killing, described assisted suicide as a “Pandora’s Box,” emphasizing that once opened, “you can’t close it.”

PA Media contributed to this report.

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