Assisted dying: Doubts over Jury process

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Last week, Health Minister Richard Renouf published a new timeframe for discussing assisted dying with the view to bringing a proposition for debate to the States Assembly later this year.

This included setting up a Citizens’ Jury this year, who will review the arguments for and against assisted dying. Deputy Renouf indicated that depending on the feedback from the Citizens’ Jury, a States debate could take place in December.

The announcement came 16 months after the launch of a petition from campaign group End of Life Choices Jersey.

Despite welcoming the clarity given by the Health Minister, Michael Talibard, the deputy co-ordinator of the campaign group, admitted that he still had concerns and believed Deputy Renouf was putting off making a decision.

He said: ‘End of Life Choices Jersey has played some part in bringing this about, and we welcome the announcement—though certainly not unreservedly. We would have preferred the minister to have reached a decision on a States debate sooner, and we have considerable doubts as to the validity of the process he has chosen by which to seek advice.’

In an open letter to States Members last week the minister confirmed an advisory panel will be set up to establish the questions that will need to be answered by a Citizens’ Jury.

The panel will be made up of between three and five people who hold a neutral position, and they will oversee the integrity of the jury process.

The jury, made up of 12 to 24 Islanders, will meet in the summer, before recommendations are made ahead of a planned States debate in December.

Mr Talibard has questioned where the panel of people will come from, as campaigners and others with wider knowledge of the issue won’t be able to have their say.

He added: ‘Crucially, the larger jury is to be overseen by a panel of three to five prominent citizens, who supposedly will hold a “neutral position” on assisted dying.

‘Because of all the work we have done to raise awareness of this issue in Jersey, or just because it is an idea with widespread public prominence, most of those who would otherwise fit his criteria will already have formed some view on the matter.

‘Anyone who has held back from doing so may well have a predisposition for the status quo.’

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