Guernsey Press

'Assisted dying would help States save money'

A DEPUTY wants a fresh debate on legalising assisted dying – partly to help the States save money.

Deputy Lester Queripel wants a fresh debate on legalising assisted dying – partly to help the States save money. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 32474351)

Lester Queripel has told the Health & Social Care Committee that the States’ financial problems provide an ideal opportunity to revisit the controversial issue.

Deputy Queripel said that ‘no stone should be left unturned’ as committees battle to save millions of pounds a year in spending. And he urged HSC to accept that ‘considerable savings could be realised if assisted dying was to be introduced here in the island’.

‘Those savings obviously wouldn’t just be exclusively financial, because islanders with terminal illnesses could be saved from months of unnecessary excruciating pain and suffering if they were permitted to end their own life whenever they choose to,’ he said.

‘To state the obvious, family members and friends would also be spared the heartache of having to watch their loved ones die an unnecessarily protracted and painful death.’

In written questions to HSC, Deputy Queripel asked how many people had been kept alive, against their wishes, in the past five years, how much their medication and treatment had cost taxpayers, and how many staff hours had been taken up keeping them alive.

HSC president Al Brouard said such figures were unavailable and rebuked Deputy Queripel for his choice of language.

‘From a HSC perspective, consideration of assisted dying should be from the core principles of health, dignity and pain management,’ said Deputy Brouard.

‘HSC considers that discussing such an important and emotive subject through an economic or financial lens is inappropriate. The committee does not support the terminology being used in this question.

‘Our goal is to support people to have a dignified death, free from avoidable distress and suffering, and it does not count or evaluate patient experience in this way.’

Deputy Queripel was unrepentant about his approach.

‘They keep on saying they need to make savings, so I put in a simple question,’ said Deputy Queripel.

‘They say we need to look at everything, so this is the next logical step.

‘Many people don’t want to keep on living and I think we need to put a figure on that.’

Deputy Queripel said he had watched his mother die after a long battle with cancer, and had three other friends die with protracted illnesses.

In 2018, he helped put forward a requete on assisted dying which was defeated in the States.

‘When you have watched someone suffer unbearable pain, it makes compassionate sense to allow them to go to with assisted dying if they so wish,’ he said.

Deputy Queripel said he was unimpressed with HSC’s response to his questions.

‘My first reaction is that surely this is recordable,’ he said.

‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and obviously HSC has no will to do this work.’

The States of Jersey is set to debate assisted dying next year with plans to legalise it by 2025.

‘Jersey are ahead of us and so are many other places. This is an issue that won’t go away,’ said Deputy Queripel.