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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 May, 2003, 17:46 GMT 18:46 UK
Isle of Man in euthanasia bid
Douglas Port, Isle of Man
About 80,000 people live on the Isle of Man

Politicians on the Isle of Man are to consider legalising euthanasia.

Members of the island's parliament have voted to set up a committee to investigate the issue.

The committee is expected to spend at least one year hearing evidence from all those involved in the debate, before drafting possible legislation.

The Isle of Man is a UK crown dependency and is free to introduce laws in this area without interference from the British government.

Committee stage

Under the proposed legislation, only those living on the Isle of Man, which lies 70 miles off the western coast of England, would be able to die with the help of a medical professional.

Politicians are adamant that people living in other parts of the UK would not be able to travel to the island to receive medical help to die.

The push to make euthanasia legal is being spearheaded by two members of the island's lower house of parliament or House of Keys.

We would expect the whole process will take one or two years
Quintin Gill

Quintin Gill and John Rimington say they want islanders to debate the issue.

"As an island, we should consider and debate medically-assisted suicide," Mr Gill told BBC News Online.

Both politicians were approached by a constituent, Patrick Kneen, who is terminally ill with prostate cancer.

He told the BBC he backed moves to make euthanasia legal. "If one only has a few weeks or months to live anyway, I would like to be able to say to my family 'come and say goodbye to me, I want to go'."

Mr Gill said a the parliamentary committee would probably take at least a year to consider whether the law should be changed.

"We would expect the whole process will take one or two years," he said. "If legislation does come before the house, it will only relate to Manx residents."

Any legislation would have to be approved by the Queen.

Mr Rimington said physician-assisted suicide can help the terminally ill in their final days.

"There are many family circumstances where when people come towards the end of their life and they are in a distressing state that they wish to die with dignity and not go through those last awful days or weeks."

Euthanasia is illegal in the UK. It is permitted in the Netherlands and under certain conditions in Switzerland.

At least three Britons have travelled to Switzerland in recent months to die with medical help. One of these was Reginald Crew who was terminally ill with motor neurone disease.

His wife Wyn backed the Isle of Man proposals. She said: "I would be really pleased if it comes in in the Isle of Man.

"It may not make a difference initially to people [in the rest of the UK] but at the end of the day I think the government has to listen."

However, the bid to legalise euthanasia is strongly opposed by many people on the Isle of Man.

Pastor Jonathan Stanfield of Port St Mary Baptist Church said: "If the Isle of Man becomes known as a place where people are put to death, this certainly isn't a place I would like to live or bring up my children."




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Kevin Bocquet
"In the Isle of Man, there is strong opposition to the idea"



SEE ALSO:
Suicide man's 'dignified' death
24 Jan 03  |  England


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