Deputy Richard Renouf said Jersey’s legal stance on assisted dying should be reviewed ‘to understand if a change’ in the laws was needed.
Throughout the British Isles, assisted dying – a term that covers both assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia – is illegal.
In his written response to the e-petition, which calls for individuals of capacity to be allowed to make their own end-of-life choices, Deputy Renouf wrote: ‘Assisted dying is a complex and sensitive issue requiring further in-depth consideration by the Council of Ministers, drawing on the extensive work undertaken in other parts of the British Isles.’
The petition has been signed by more than 1,300 people.
It was uploaded to the States’ petitions website by campaign group End of Life Choices Jersey, which was created earlier this summer by Islander Tanya Tupper.
Tanya’s mother, Roberta, was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer just over three years ago and is planning to go to Dignitas to die.
Deputy Renouf said ministers ‘acknowledge the importance and significance of ensuring that people are able to end their lives with dignity’, but added: ‘The practice and clinical codes of conduct that guide our health care professionals are incompatible with models of “assisted dying”.
‘Any doctor actively assisting a patient to die would risk the removal of their General Medical Council licence to practice and be acting contrary to the basic “do no harm” principle that underpins clinical practice.’
However, in his response he also noted that ‘the wider international debate raises many important and fundamental issues about medically assisted dying’ and listed the key issues for debate as ‘clear eligibility criteria including conditions and prognosis; a framework to protect the vulnerable; assessment of free will and the absence of coercion; continuity of care; and where decision making responsibility should lie’.
He added: ‘Due to the complexity, sensitivity and gravity of the issue, this should first be considered in more depth by the Council of Ministers, with the necessary time provided to prepare an informed discussion, drawing on the extensive work undertaken in other parts of the British Isles.
‘The Minister for Health and Social Services intends to bring this matter before the Council of Ministers to undertake this initial consideration, before the end of January 2019.’