LONDON, United Kingdom — After debate this week, the Guernsey legislature has moved to reject a proposed legalization of physician assisted suicide on the island, drawing praise from the local bishop.
“Delighted to learn that Guernsey has rejected the proposals for physician assisted suicide and euthanasia!” said Bishop Philip Egan on Twitter May 18.
“Thanks be to God for answering our prayer during this Great Novena leading to Pentecost,” Egan continued.
Egan is the bishop of nearby Portsmouth, whose diocese encompasses Guernsey. The island is a Crown dependency located off the coast of Normandy and falls under the responsibility of the United Kingdom. Had the island passed the euthanasia measure, Guernsey would have been the first place on the British Isles to allow physician assisted suicide.
On Friday, Guernsey’s government announced their decision to reject a bill proposed by the island’s chief minister, Gavin St. Pier. The proposal was defeated 24-14 after a three-day debate.
Instead, leaders called for focused efforts on palliative and end of life care on the island. These efforts include “measures necessary to improve quality of life and health outcomes for all islanders toward the end of their lives,” according to the BBC.
The British Medical Association expressed approval for that decision, saying that they “welcome the ‘almost’ unanimous decision to look into ways of enhancing end-of-life care in Guernsey,” according to ITV.
“We look forward to working with colleagues, politicians and civil servants on ways in which we can provide the very best care for the people at the end of their lives,” the statement continued.
Groups who opposed the assisted suicide proposal also applauded the final outcome, among them Care for Life Guernsey and Care Not Killing.
During the early stages of the bill’s proposal, a number of Christian leaders voiced their opposition to the measure in a joint letter signed by 53 pastoral ministers and 41 churches.
Advocates for the assisted suicide campaign voiced their disappointment over the May 18 ruling, including Sarah Wootton, the chief executive for Dignity in Dying.
“Many in Guernsey and beyond will be disappointed with today’s result, particularly those who have seen the suffering caused by the current law,” Wootton said, although she noted the decision was not unexpected.
“Regardless of today’s result, it is clear that change must and will come to the British Isles – the only question is ‘when,’” she continued.
The Suicide Act of 1961 forbids assisted suicide in Guernsey.