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Guernsey Mind chairman condemns deputy’s remarks

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THE chairman of Guernsey Mind has said comments made by Jan Kuttelwascher on the steps of the Royal Court before the assisted dying debate started were grossly insensitive.

Flashpoint outside the States on Wednesday as Deputy Jan Kuttelwascher confronts assisted dying supporters. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 21471124)

John Curran is the latest person to speak out following Deputy Kuttelwascher’s comments in which he told people supporting the requete that if they wanted to kill themselves they could do it now and added that there was a number of people he would like to assist in dying, but they would probably object.

Mr Curran said Deputy Kuttelwascher’s comments were totally unacceptable.

‘Earlier this year Guernsey Mind ran a campaign highlighting the issue of suicide in Guernsey, and male suicide in particular,’ he said.

‘For Deputy Kuttelwascher to suggest suicide and assisted dying can somehow be seen as comparable is not only wrong, it is grossly insensitive to the many islanders who will have lost loved ones to suicide.

‘I believe Deputy Kuttelwascher should withdraw his comments and apologise unreservedly for them.’

Dignity in Dying chief executive Sarah Wootton said Mr Kuttelwascher showed himself to be ‘woefully ill-informed’ with the remarks that are ‘crass, offensive and ignorant of the reality of why people want a change in the law’.

Ms Wootton took particular offence at the deputy’s ‘love to assist’ remark.

‘This attempt at a joke is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what assisted dying is all about. Dying people who wanted to die on their own terms would take a life-ending medication that had been prescribed to them after following a series of strict safeguards,’ she said.

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Pro-assisted dying campaigner Sarah Griffith is considering making a complaint to the States code of conduct panel about the comments.

Ms Griffith said the remarks were unfitting of a States member.

‘I was angry at the time but after sitting back and taking a deep breath I’m just extremely disappointed that a public servant feels that this type of behaviour is befitting, particularly when he knew that the world’s media were there and that it was being reported in the United States and Australia and being tweeted,’ she said.

Ms Griffith highlighted that the brother of Deputy Gavin St Pier, who is leading the requete, had committed suicide and this was Mental Health Week.

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‘There is a standard of behaviour that is expected of a public servant and if you can’t meet it you shouldn’t be there,’ she said.

‘This is a super serious and sensitive subject and I don’t want to detract from it. But just to let those comments roll in the community is something that I don’t want to be part of and it’s just sheer arrogance on Deputy Kuttelwascher’s part.

‘The responses I’ve had from people showed that many are appalled by this behaviour.’

She said it was clear to her that the comments had breached the code of conduct and she would decide whether to make a complaint very soon.

Deputy Kuttelwascher has maintained that his comments about assisted dying were ‘just him stating the facts’ and that he ‘is against all suicide’.

He did so again when he stood up to make a point of correction during Deputy Lyndon Trott’s speech yesterday.

‘I was asked by somebody that they just wanted choice and I said at the present time suicide, killing yourself, which is what it is, is an option which is not a criminal offence,’ he said. ‘Now, that doesn’t imply that I support it but if you just want a choice there is a first level choice now.

‘I will oppose the whole issue of suicide, especially the inclusion of another person in the process, so my view is that I don’t suggest it as an option, but it is a choice whether you like it or not.

He asked people ‘not to make assumptions’ that he had meant to offend people or that he was suggesting anyone kill themself.

‘I just said a statement of fact – it is not a criminal offence, it is an option but please don’t do it. I am against all suicide, even assisted suicide.’

In The States Page 4

Nigel Baudains

By Nigel Baudains
News reporter

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