Public opinion sought as politicians in Isle of Man vote in favour of debating assisted dying

A woman who has campaigned to introduce assisted dying onto the Isle of Man for almost a decade says people should not be forced to "wait until the very end" of terminal diseases.

Millie Blenkinsop-French took up the cause after her son James died of cancer in 2021.

She now believes those with terminal illness should have the option to end their life.

"My son died a terrible death," Mille said. "People shouldn't have to wait until the very end."

"I'm sure he would have [chosen assisted dying]. He believed in listening to your own body.

"I think if more people talk about death I think more people would lose this real panic fear that we all tend to hold."

However, the concept of assisted dying has been met with some backlash from medical professionals who fear it may force some vulnerable people to end their own life.

Millie's son was diagnosed with cancer after coming across to the island to support her and her cancer diagnosis.

She said: "He was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, he had a tiny little lump on the side of his neck, I said to him 'go and get that seen to' and within a week he was told he had terminal cancer."

He died 10 months later.

Millie Blenkinsop-French has petitioned two Tynwald on two occasions encouraging politicians to introduce assisted dying. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

What is assisted dying?

Assisted dying is where a person suffering from a terminal illness or incurable condition is helped to take their own life, after requesting drugs provided by a doctor for the purpose.

Assisted dying is lawful in Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Millie first petitioned the Isle of Man parliament on Tynwald Day about assisted dying in 2014.

Now a public consultation has now been launched asking whether it should be introduced, after 22 of the 24 Members of the House of Keys voting overwhelmingly in favour of an assisted dying bill.

The legislation is proposed by Dr Alex Allinson who a GP, and the MHK for Ramsey.

He has also previously introduced the island's abortion legislation.

He said: "This is the start of what could be quite a long process, but I think it's really important with a consultation to listen to people's views and to answer some of those fears."

Addressing concerns the legislation could see people travelling to the Isle of Man to end their life, Dr Allinson added: "I don't think there's appetite for that at all. I think it's quite clear that people want this to be for Isle of Man residents."

Dr Alex Allinson MHK was granted leave to bring forward the private members bill to be debated in Tynwald. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

However, a growing number of medical professionals in the Island are against the proposed changes and are concerned about the impact assisted dying could have on society.

Dr Fiona Baker, a GP, fears some vulnerable people may be at risk under new legislation.

She said: "I'm really concerned and I'm not the only one. The concern is that there will be some people who are pushed into this by family members and carers."

She added: "I think that pressure is going to really be felt by some people and it really worries me that people will take that route, not because they want to, but because they feel they ought to."

Fiona Baker works as a GP in the Isle of Man and worries about the proposed introduction of assisted dying. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

She also said the proposed change could be offered to people who have six months to live, which she says "can be really really difficult to predict."

She continued: "If someone has six months to live they can be on holiday, they can be attending a wedding, they can be meeting their grandchild for the first time.

"If we suddenly introduce a law where we say suicide is the answer in some cases, then this blurs the lines and undermines what some charities are trying to achieve".

The public consultation will run until Thursday 26 January and more information can be found here.