Medics divided as doctors debate whether to legalise assisted dying in Jersey

  • Proposals to legalise assisted dying has divided the medical community in Jersey.

If Jersey politicians pass a law to allow assisted dying, doctors will be a vital part of the process.

Those who opt into the scheme would have the power to authorise and in some cases give the lethal dose.

Politicians overwhelmingly voted to legalise assisted dying in principle in November 2021 with a final decision expected this week.

However, there are deeply held views on both sides of the debate and the issue has split the medical community.

Dr Nigel Minihane is an experienced Jersey GP who is in favour of legalising assisted dying for people with a terminal illness and has created a local group for like-minded healthcare professionals.

He says: "We're talking about autonomy here, if someone wants to follow a particular path then why shouldn't they?

"An example I would give is motor neurone disease. I don't know how I might act should I develop it but I have two daughters and I know that I would not want them, out of love, to watch me diminish in front of them to the point that I drowned in my own spit.

"However well those symptoms are controlled, that would be the lasting impression they had of their father so I'm pretty sure if that choice was offered and I had that awful disease, I would take it."

Dr Andreas Melchior is an experienced Jersey GP who is against assisted dying and believes the focus should be on saving lives rather than ending them prematurely.

He explains: "I understand that people with motor neurone disease or other deteriorating neurological conditions will feel fearful.

"It's a horrible disease but there are physiotherapists who look after them and there are people with those diseases who choose not to terminate their own life who are actually fearful that they would be discriminated against and suggested to choose an assisted death.

"I think once we cross that line and we become the ones that decide, that's a very dangerous move and it erodes the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm."

ITV News is broadcasting a special half-hour programme ahead of Jersey's assisted dying debate at 6pm on Monday 20 May on ITV1 across the Channel Islands. It will be available to watch back for 24 hours on ITVX later that evening.

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