Church leaders help to defeat a proposal from Guernsey’s chief minister

The campaign for assisted suicide, frustrated by Parliament in 2016, turned its attention to a smaller target: the island of Guernsey. But last week the proposal was defeated in Guernsey’s parliament, the States of Deliberation, by 22 to 16.

Although Guernsey, an island of 60,000, is a Crown dependency which passes its own laws without consulting Britain, this was a debate with wider resonance.

Critics of the proposal asked whether Guernsey could become a “British Dignitas”, a convenient destination for UK citizens who wanted to kill themselves. “First British suicide clinic”, declared the front page of the Daily Mirror. Gavin St Pier, the island’s Chief Minister, downplayed that possibility.

Even so, St Pier and his allies adopted a tone which suggested they thought the change had significance beyond Guernsey. “Governments can choose to lead or they can choose to follow the will of the people,” St Pier tweeted. “Either way, giving terminally ill individuals their right to informed end of life choices is inevitable.

The difference is simply: when?” Dignitas itself wrote to States of Deliberation members, offering to advise them on the regulatory details if the proposal (in Guernsey terms, a requête) passed into law. The actor Sir Patrick Stewart appeared alongside St Pier to support the Chief Minister’s efforts. The Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood suggested that, “if passed, the move is likely to reignite the debate in the UK”.

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