About 75 people gathered in the Manx Legion Club in Douglas to explore whether the island should introduce right to die legislation.

The final Positive Action Group meeting of 2018, hosted with Isle of Man Freethinkers, saw representatives from a UK pressure group speak of their experiences and answer questions.

The main speakers of the night were Tom Davies and Mick Murray from Dignity in Dying, a group seeking a change in the law to allow people the right to choose their own death.

Mr Davies began by showing the video of Noel Conway, a British man who this week lost his bid to take his appeal for the right to die to the UK’S Supreme Court.

Mr Davies explained to those in attendance, including MHKs Dr Alex Allinson, Clare Bettison, Daphne Caine, Rob Callister, Ralph Peake and Martyn Perkins, that the island last examined the right to die in 2015, but that DiD believe it is right to restart the discussion.

He added: ’This isn’t an abstract academic debate, this is something that happens in lots of countries around the world.

’It may surprise some of you to know that in the United States, some states have assisted dying laws. Oregon has had it for 20 years.

’Gradually Oregon was joined by other states including Washington State, Colorado, California and even Washington DC has an assisted dying law.’

He also noted that countries such as Belgium, Holland and most famously Switzerland have also introduced legislation to allow terminally ill people to die with dignity and protect family and friends who help them to travel to clinics which provide euthanasia services.

Before opening up the floor, Mr Murray spoke about how he’d travelled to Dignitas with friends, Ann Hall and Bob Cole, a couple who both decided to end their life when they were terminally ill.

He spoke of how it is important to state DiD is seeking to introduce self-administered assisted dying, not doctor aided.

Mr Murray said while a hospice can provide palliative care, that care has its limits and cannot provide everyone with the peaceful and dignified death some want.

He also revealed that it can cost between £10,000 and £12,000 for people to travel to clinics such as Dignitas.

He said: ’The real tragedy of services like Dignitas is that people should be entitled to do it at home, not to be treated as fugitives going to another country. The law is an ass and it acts against the best interests of the people.’

The DiD position on assisted suicide is that a person must be able to administer the drug cocktail themselves, meaning a doctor’s role is only to provide the drugs and certify death.

Mr Davies said their role was not to provide guidelines or suggest laws, rather it is just to begin a discussion.

He added that Manx residents and politicians need to discuss what is the best way forward for the island’s laws.

During the questions portion of the evening, Mr Davies was asked why DiD supports only a six month life expectancy restriction and that if people should be able to say they want to make that choice in case they develop, for example, dementia.

Mr Davies said: ’We want to campaign for a six month law for terminal illnesses. We don’t campaign for a loss of faculties law, as no-one should die because they feel like a burden, safeguards need to be in place.’

Millie Blenkinsop-French, whose story was detailed in last week’s Manx Independent, explained how she has supported assisted dying since she was in her 30s.

Mrs Blenkinsop-French, who has stage three breast cancer, emotionally detailed her battle for assisted dying laws which included submitting a petition to Tynwald in 2015 which failed to gain enough support.

She added: ’We wouldn’t treat animals like this, it would be seen as cruel.’

One man was concerned about the path the island could take if it introduced legislation. He said: ’The island asked for abortion laws and we now have some very liberal laws, I’m concerned that if we do this and go too far, we’d be the talk of Europe.’

Mr Davies replied: ’What is important is that your laws should be for you, although I think the island should not allow itself to become a tourist magnet for suicides like Switzerland has become.’

Source: IoMToday