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Should Guernsey States debate assisted dying?

Credit: Jens Kalaene/DPA/PA Images

A Guernsey woman has written to all of the Island's deputies asking them to discuss the "taboo" subject of assisted dying.

In her letter, Sarah Griffith reflected on her own experience of seeing her mother deteriorate after a stroke.

She described how her once "energetic" and "independent" mother is now fully dependent and has no quality of life.

I have watched her decline in Alzheimer’s now for 14 long years.

She asked me to make sure she did not suffer like her father – she has, she is, I have failed her.

I just hope and pray my mother will soon be in the place of release of the extreme torture she is now.

– Sarah Griffith

It follows a case in the UK last week where a paralysed man with motor neurone disease was denied his wish for a "peaceful and dignified" death due to the current law which makes it illegal for anyone to help him die.

She has to be dressed/toileted/wears a nappy/bathed/fed/helped to drink/moved with a hoist - would you like to be in that situation?

I know welI I do not and I know she doesn't either - it is pain cruel and we are allowing it to happen because of the laws of the land. Things must change.

– Sarah Griffith

Sarah Griffith says she knows any change in legislation would come too late to apply to her mother, but her mother's situation has prompted her to begin a campaign for others in similar situations.

She ended her letter with a plea for the States to openly discuss assisted dying, particularly when it comes to extreme circumstances.

In response to the letter, Deputy Soulsby, President of the Committee for Health and Social Care, gave the following statement:

HSC employs and partners with a large number of healthcare professionals who provide care and is responsible for the care of a range of vulnerable service users.

As such, it would be inappropriate for HSC to instigate a debate on assisted dying. However, we would action any recommendations as directed by the States if a Requete put forward by 7 like-minded Deputies was successful.

A priority piece of legislation for HSC is the Capacity Law – which is designed to protect those who don’t have capacity as well as those who look after them. This will protect people against being pressured into situations - such as decisions about stopping their medical treatment - when they become vulnerable by reason of ill-health or disability, and struggle to express their own wishes.

Any legislation related to assisted dying should not be introduced until we have such Capacity law in place, and would need to be carefully designed with its own safeguards against abuse as well.

– Deputy Soulsby, President of the Committee for Health and Social Care

If you have a family member with a terminal illness, the following organisations offer support....