Assisted Dying Bill should be put to referendum, says Isle of Man chief minister

Legalising assisted dying would be a change of “huge significance” and should therefore be put to a referendum, the Isle of Man’s parliament has heard.

The Assisted Dying Bill “changes the social contract” on the island and requires a public mandate, the chief minister said.

The wording of the Bill has so far undergone five days of debate during its clauses stage.

Among amendments proposed is one from chief minister Alfred Cannan who has proposed that the overall Bill should be put to a referendum before becoming law.

On Wednesday, Mr Cannan told fellow Members of the House of Keys (MHKs): “This Bill changes the social contract.

“It changes in such a way that the state in which we have come to absolutely believe is there to support you as appropriate throughout your life – in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, as they say – now also, it seems, is about to determine that it now shall play a role and wishes to play a role in ending your life.”

He said the law would be “a change of huge significance” and was one which “puts us at odds with our traditional values”.

Alfred Cannan, chief minister of the Isle of Man
Chief minister Alfred Cannan said the law would be ‘a change of huge significance’ (Peter Byrne/PA)

“Quite frankly, once this legislation is passed, it can only go one way and that is to widen and expand to encompass more people and more scenarios,” he added.

Dr Alex Allinson, the MHK who proposed the Bill, told the PA news agency that a referendum had never been held on the island before and described the amendment as “very much a delaying tactic to try and prevent the Bill coming into effect despite parliamentary approval”.

He has argued that this issue should have been raised when he first sought to introduce his Bill.

Mr Cannan told the parliament: “A change in the social contract under which we live our lives requires a public mandate.

“This Bill, if it passes through the House of Keys and legislative council and then comes into law, surely requires a public mandate.

“A Bill that effectively ends people’s lives, that kills people, requires a public mandate.”

The Tynwald Building on the Isle of Man
The wording of the Bill has undergone five days of debate during its clauses stage (Alamy/PA)

The Bill passed a second reading vote in October and has since undergone scrutiny by a five-member committee before reaching the current clauses stage.

Once this stage has been concluded, the Bill still requires a third reading in the House of Keys, before moving to the parliament’s Upper House.

Campaigners have previously said that if it gains royal assent next year, assisted dying could be available to eligible Manx residents from 2027.

In the first stage of debate on the clauses stage of the Bill, MHKs voted that a person seeking an assisted death should have been resident on the island for five years instead of one, and that the life expectancy criteria be extended from six months to a year.

The clauses stage will resume on July 9 with continued debate on the referendum amendment.