Catholic bishop ‘shocked and saddened’ by Jersey vote for assisted suicide ‘in principle’

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, England, pictured on May 21, 2015 Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, England, pictured on May 21, 2015. | Mazur/

A Catholic bishop has said that he was “shocked and saddened” by a vote on the Channel Island of Jersey to approve assisted suicide “in principle.”

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, England, expressed his dismay after the States Assembly, the island’s parliament, backed an assisted suicide proposition by 36 votes to 10, with three absences, on Nov. 25.

“I was shocked and saddened by the results of yesterday’s vote on euthanasia and assisted suicide in Jersey,” he said.

“It demonstrates a woeful lack of interest in protecting the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Jersey is an island with an estimated population of 107,800 people near the coast of northwestern France. The British crown dependency is not part of the United Kingdom and has it own government and legal system.

If the island changes its laws, Jersey will be the first place in the British Isles to allow assisted suicide.

The proposition would permit an adult island resident with a “voluntary, clear, settled, and informed wish to end his or her own life” to seek assisted suicide.

They must have been diagnosed with a terminal illness “expected to result in unbearable suffering that cannot be alleviated” and judged to have less than six months to live, or an incurable physical medical condition resulting in “unbearable suffering that cannot be alleviated.”

Egan, who is based in Portsmouth, southern England, but oversees the Catholic Church in the Channel Islands, said that if the proposition became law it would “change fundamentally the role of doctors and medical staff.”

“However, this is only the first step in the process of legalizing ‘assisted suicide’; as such, we will continue to scrutinize and challenge any proposed legislation in the months ahead,” he said.

In 2018, the legislature of Guernsey, another Channel Island, rejected an assisted suicide proposal, drawing praise from Bishop Egan.

In March this year, Jersey formed a citizens’ jury, made up of 23 randomly selected applicants, to determine whether assisted suicide should be allowed on the island.

Ultimately, 18 out of the 23 of the jurors agreed that assisted suicide should be permitted.

Jersey’s Council of Ministers will now draft legislation to be discussed by the States Assembly by the end of 2022. A vote on a draft law could take place in 2023.

The bishop said: “The Catholic Church is clear that we can never assist in taking the life of another, even if they request it. Killing people and committing suicide is against God’s law.”

“All human life is a gift to be safeguarded from conception until natural death, and we reiterate our call for continuing investment in high-quality palliative care, in order to preserve the dignity of some of our most vulnerable, at such difficult moments in their lives.”

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