Douglas, Isle of Man, Jan 23, 2020 / 04:09 pm (CNA).- Legislators on the Isle of Man voted Wednesday to note a debate on assisted suicide, instead of supporting further inquiry into whether the crown dependency’s legislation on the matter should be reformed.
An amendment from David Ashford to note the debate “received unanimous support from both branches” of Tynwald Jan. 22, Manx Radio reported.
“This is a sensible decision that will bring relief to those with terminal and chronic conditions on the Isle of Man and who fear changing the law on assisted suicide and euthanasia,” Dr. Gordon Macdonald, chief executive of Care Not Killing, said Jan. 23.
Care Not Killing is a coalition which includes disability and human rights advocacy groups, healthcare providers, and faith-based groups. It opposes the weakening or repeal of laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide, while promoting better palliative care.
“Laws such as the Isle of Man’s Criminal Law Act which prohibit assisted suicide and euthanasia are essential to protect vulnerable people. The operation of the Suicide Act and murder legislation in other parts of the British Isles, covering assisted suicide and euthanasia has been reviewed dozens of times by MPs, MSPs, peers, other elected officials, judges even the former Director of Public Prosecution. Every time, they have rejected introducing a law that would discriminate against the terminally ill and disabled people by removing long held universal protections,” Macdonald stated.
He added that “current laws ensure all people are treated equally and deters vulnerable people at risk of abuse and of coming under pressure, real or perceived to end their lives prematurely, which is what the evidence from around the world shows.”
The motion to inquire into the legalization of assisted suicide was made by Dr. Alex Allinson, a member of the House of Keys.
Among those to speak against the proposal during the five-hour debate was Chris Robertshaw, deputy speaker of the House of Keys.
Allinson, who sponsored the Abortion Reform Bill 2018, which resulted in the one of the most permissive abortion laws in the British isles, has said that allowing assisted suicide “would allow for more compassion and personal choice when a person’s death is inevitable and imminent.”
He has also claimed that “there are clear examples around the world where this has been managed successfully.”
Allinson’s assisted suicide proposal was opposed by the Catholic Church and both pro-life and medical groups.
Msgr. John Devine, dean of the Catholic Church on the Isle of Man, wrote to the Chief Minister of the House of Keys saying that the Church opposes “any liberalisation of current legislation” and “condemns the deliberate taking of life”.
Liz Parsons, advocacy director of Life Charity, said: “We need to concentrate on any gaps in palliative care rather than offering assisted dying, such as providing counselling, physiotherapy, services that help to relieve pain and provides support.”
“Assisted dying could really put vulnerable people in the Isle of Man at risk … using the words ‘dying with dignity’ makes you assume people cannot die with dignity without euthanasia, but they can,” he said. “There are plenty of ways to have a good death without it.”
Dr. David Randall, spokesman for Our Duty of Care, said the Isle of Man has “superb palliative care services” which allow for “a comfortable and dignified death.”
Briefing Tynwald members Jan. 21, he said legalizing assisted suicide could put “vulnerable people at risk of suffering real or imagined pressure from others to end their lives prematurely.”
Not Dead Yet UK, a disabled persons’ advocacy group, said that “there is no safe system of assisted suicide and disabled people want help to live, not to die.”
The group noted that the motion in favor of assisted suicide was listed below a Tynwald agenda item to receive a committee report on suicide and to approve 13 recommendations for suicide prevention and for psychological support of people experiencing “moderate to severe emotional reactions to illnesses.”
“These should serve as reminders that no group should be excluded from efforts to prevent suicide, including those influenced by serious illness,” the coalition said Jan. 13. Any proposal to legalize assisted suicide, it warned, tries to separate “those suicides which should be discouraged, and those which should be brought to fruition.”
“Members of Tynwald Court should focus on suicide prevention for all, and access to high quality palliative and social care for all, rather than settling for assisted suicide’s counsel of despair,” said Care Not Killing.
The group warned that there is no evidence that assisted suicide has become safer or easier to regulate, nor is there evidence that the Isle of Man’s provision of end-of-life care is so great “that no one could be driven to seek their own death for fear of being a care burden or financial drain.”
Both the Isle of Man Medical Society and the Association of Palliative Medicine of Great Britain and Ireland oppose legalization of assisted suicide.
Backers of legal assisted suicide include the group Isle of Man Freethinkers, which holds it a matter of personal autonomy “to make decisions about their life and death” and says debate should be “based on science and compassion”.
Efforts to legalize assisted suicide have repeatedly failed to pass. The last vote, held in 2015, failed 17-5 in the House of Keys.