Politicians have progressed a bill that would give terminally-ill Isle of Man residents the right to choose to end their lives.

The Assisted Dying Bill 2023 passed its second reading in the House of Keys.

Alex Allinson MHK, who brought the private members bill forward, said the underlying principle was “compassion, choice, and autonomy”.

But some MHKs raised concerned about safeguards, the risk of coercion, and eligibility for assisted dying.

Seventeen members of the island’s directly elected lower house backed the bill’s progress onto the clauses stage, with seven members opposed.

Supporters including John Wannenburgh MHK said supporting the proposals was “the single greatest act of compassion” members could deliver, but warned “robust” safeguards would be needed.

Clare Barber MHK, who is a former nurse, said for some people “a good death will remain unattainable if we do not legislate for assisted dying”.

‘Deeply split’

Several previous attempts have been made to introduce assisted dying laws on the Isle of Man, with the earliest coming in 2003, but none have progressed to this stage.

Public opinion was narrowly divided on the issue in a consultation held in April where more than 3,000 people shared their views.

Alfred Cannan MHK, who is the island’s chief minister, spoke out against the proposals stating there was “no clear mandate” to progress assisted dying laws as it was clear society was “deeply split” on the issue.

Presentational grey line

People eligible to request assisted dying would have to:

  • Be terminally-ill and “reasonably expected” to die within six months
  • Be over the age of 18
  • Have lived on the Isle of Man for at least 12 months
  • Have the legal capacity to make the decision
Presentational grey line

Manx and UK pressure groups campaigning both for and against assisted dying held demonstrations outside the House of Keys ahead of the debate.

Kate Lord-Brennan MHK said it was “completely inappropriate” to take the proposals forward as the island’s medical profession was “vastly against” a law change.

In an Isle of Man Medical Society poll, about 74% of doctors said they did not support a change in the law.

Under the proposed laws, medics with a conscientious objection would not have to be involved in assisted dying.

Health Minister Lawrie Hooper said his department and Manx Care had taken a neutral stance on bill to allow healthcare staff to express their own views.

The MHK said he personally supported the draft laws, which promoted “the alleviation of suffering” for those facing “the very worst of circumstances”.

David Ashford MHK backed the bill’s progress, but said residency requirements should be longer than a year amid fears an influx of off-island residents with long-term illnesses could put health services under pressure.

This was echoed by Rob Callister MHK who was concerned the island could risk being labelled a “death tourism” location.

Dr Allinson told MHKs that if approved, the option of assisted dying would take “at least two years” to be established, and would need proper funding, structure and staff training.

A vote on whether the clauses of the bill should now be examined by a committee of five MHKs will be taken next Tuesday.

Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-isle-of-man-67273819