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Guernsey rejects assisted suicide

The flag of Guernsey (Wikimedia Commons)

The legislature on the island of Guernsey has rejected legalising assisted suicide after a two-and-a-half-day debate.

The States of Guernsey voted to reject a requête (proposal) to look into legalising the practice, and will instead investigate “measures necessary to improve quality of life and health outcomes for all islanders towards the end of their lives”.

Last week, the most senior committee in the States – as the island’s legislature in known – voted unanimously not to support the proposal, saying it did not conform to their priorities and the complex legal issues would likely drain resources from other areas.

Disability groups and religious leaders had also criticised the proposal. Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, whose diocese covers the island, was outspoken in condemning it. “It would be an intolerable and utterly immoral demand to ask medical staff, doctors and nurses, dedicated to preserving life, to extinguish the life of another human person,” he said.

“Assisting someone to die prematurely or assisting someone to commit suicide, even when they earnestly request it, can never ever be a compassionate action. It is a grave sin.”

After the vote on Friday, Bishop Egan tweeted:

Had the legislation passed, Guernsey could have become the first jurisdiction in the British Isles to introduce assisted suicide. In 2015, the British House of Commons voted by a wide margin to reject a similar proposal for the United Kingdom.