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Isle of Man assisted dying law ‘only for residents of five years or more’

A person seeking an assisted death under a potential new law in the Isle of Man could have to be resident there for five years instead of one, a report has suggested.

The Assisted Dying Bill passed a second reading vote in the island’s parliament in October in what pro-change campaigners hailed as a “historic” moment which set it on the path to becoming the first part of the British Isles to see assisted dying legalised.

When published last year, the text of the Bill stated that it would apply only to terminally ill adults who have been “ordinarily resident” on the island for at least a year and who are reasonably expected to die within six months.

The Private Member’s Bill, brought by Dr Alex Allinson in his capacity as MHK (member of the House of Keys) for Ramsey, has undergone months of scrutiny since then by a five-member committee.

Its report, running to more than 200 pages and published on Wednesday, lists a series of conclusions about how the detail of the Bill might change.

On how long someone must have lived in the Isle of Man before being eligible for an assisted death, it states: “The committee concludes that the requirement for a patient to be ‘ordinarily resident in the island for not less than one year’ is insufficient, and support the bringing forward of an amendment to extend this to five years.”

The committee also expressed support for amending the criteria for life expectancy from six months to a year, noting “the view that more people are living with terminal illness for longer”.

The committee concluded that a person’s cause of death should be recorded as “assisted dying” on a death certificate, with the underlying terminal illness recorded as a secondary factor.

It said this would offer more clarity and certainty and would assist with “accurate monitoring” of any new law.

Four out of five committee members concluded that the title “Assisted Dying Bill” should remain unchanged, with committee member Rob Callister suggesting the words “voluntary euthanasia” be added.

The report includes a submission from the Isle of Man Medical Society “suggesting the term ‘assisted dying’ is ambiguous and would require expanding”.

The report is expected to be debated in the island’s parliament next month, and if voted through, the Bill will proceed to the clauses stage whereby each will be considered in turn and possible amendments made.

Dr Allinson told the PA news agency: “I think the committee has looked comprehensively at the technical aspects of the Bill and come up with some very helpful conclusions as to ways of improving it so that it provides the service it is designed to do.

“I’m looking forward to, once the committee report has been accepted by Tynwald, bringing forward the clauses stage in the near future for full democratic debate on each of the component parts of the Bill.”

The conversation around possible law changes on assisted dying in different areas of the British Isles has come to the fore even more since the revelation in December from Dame Esther Rantzen, who has stage four cancer, that she has joined Dignitas.

In February, a report by MPs at Westminster warned that the Government must consider what to do if the law is changed in part of the UK or on the Isle of Man or Jersey, both of which are crown dependencies.

The Health and Social Care Committee said legalisation in at least one jurisdiction is looking “increasingly likely” and suggested the Government must be “actively involved” in discussions about how to approach differences in the law.

Proposals for Jersey, set out last week, described how an assisted dying service there would work – although if agreed the earliest for a law to come into effect would be spring or summer 2027.

Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur is due to formally introduce a Bill on assisted dying at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.