Guernsey Press

Deputy’s ‘unwise words’ put back assisted dying

DEPUTY Lester Queripel has been accused of damaging the campaign for assisted dying by arguing for it to be legalised partly for financial reasons.

Deputy Peter Roffey, who took assisted dying proposals to the States 20 years ago, was not happy about Deputy Lester Queripel's 'unwise words' on the subject. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 32483179)

He said recently that the States’ financial problems provided an ideal opportunity to revisit assisted dying as a way of helping the island save money.

Peter Roffey, who first proposed assisted dying in the States 20 years ago, fears that his colleague’s ‘unwise words’ have set back the cause of reform locally.

‘I’m afraid what Lester has said is damaging to the whole issue and I really wish he hadn’t said it,’ said Deputy Roffey.

‘It is not, and never has been about saving money and I don’t believe 99% of campaigners for assisted dying have felt that way.

‘I believe Lester supports assisted dying for the proper reasons of autonomy for individuals and compassion for those suffering, and he thinks financial savings is a good side argument, but it’s not a good side argument.

‘It raises the spectre of society ending lives for financial reasons and of course that should never be contemplated.’

Gavin St Pier, who led a requete on assisted dying the last time it was debated by deputies in 2018, urged the island to disregard saving money as a reason for a fresh debate on legalisation.

‘Since 2018, it has been introduced in a number of jurisdictions, including New Zealand and every Australian state.

‘It is also now being actively progressed across a range of European jurisdictions, including France, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man and Jersey,’ said Deputy St Pier.

‘In all these places, it is quite rightly being driven not by any considerations of costs, but by recognising individuals’ rights to increased choice at the end of their lives.’

Health & Social Care president Deputy Al Brouard has told Deputy Queripel that it was inappropriate to talk about assisted dying as a cost saving and said that his committee aimed to free islanders from avoidable distress and suffering.

Deputy St Pier agreed with that aim and believed it would lead inevitably to the introduction of assisted dying locally, irrespective of reaction to Deputy Queripel’s comments.

‘It is only a matter of time before it is recognised in Guernsey is going to be necessary to follow other jurisdictions in giving terminally ill adults with capacity the choice of an assisted death,’ he said.

Carl Meerveld said that if assisted dying returned to the States while he was a member he would propose an alternative way of supporting terminally ill locals who wanted to end their lives.

‘My idea would be to set up a foundation in Switzerland. Assisted dying would remain illegal in Guernsey, expect for the purpose of the foundation in Switzerland allowing local people to take advantage of that service.

‘We then wouldn’t have the problem of having to change the law in Guernsey in conflict with Westminster,’ he said.

Deputy Meerveld said the foundation would help families with paperwork and potentially subsidise the costs of an assisted death.

He claimed that changing the law to allow assisted dying in Guernsey could take years and cost up to £2m. whereas his idea would cost a fraction of that.

‘I estimate that a medical evacuation would cost around £25,000. You could fly to Zurich in less than two hours. You could have breakfast in Guernsey and be in Zurich by lunchtime,’ he said.