Outrage at MHK’s U-turn on assisted dying

By Gemma Nettle   |   Reporter   |
Monday 20th June 2022 12:00 pm
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MHKs are sworn in during the first sitting of the new administration following the 2021 general election - Andrew Smith (Isle of Man Newspapers )

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There has been outrage on social media after an MHK changed his opinion on assisted dying between the election hustings and a House of Keys debate on the matter.

Andrew Smith said in September last year he would support the implementation of assisted dying legislation, which would enable adults who are terminally ill to be provided at their request with assistance to end their own life.

But last month in the House of Keys during the introduction of the Assisted Dying Bill, the Garff MHK said he would not be supporting the motion and voted against it.

It was however passed, with 22 members for and two against.

Mr Smith was joined by Kate Lord-Brennan in opposing the measure.

This was just the introduction before a public consultation begins and then laws can be drafted.

Local resident Dirk McHarrie took to Facebook to express his disappointment with the MHK.

He said: ‘The constituents of Garff, especially those who voted for him, have a right to know the full reasoning behind his U-turn on such an important and emotive subject.’

Mr Smith told the Manx Independent: ‘I am endeavouring to approach this topic with the sensitivity it deserves.

‘During my election canvassing it did not feature as a priority and at that time I had no in-depth knowledge but a general open mind with an acceptance and willingness to research further.

‘My research process to date has not yet provided sufficient comfort for me to give a simple answer to a very complex subject. As mentioned in my House of Keys statement, just voting through a principle for the rest to be worked out later could lead to untold ramifications.

‘I therefore believe an informed opinion is far easier to understand and to consequently make judgement upon.

‘I am continuing my research, which I will be sharing over time as part of the ongoing debate.’

Mr Smith said last year on an Energy FM panel in the lead up to elections: ‘It’s a very delicate balance from when you feel the time is right for that particular action to take place. I would support that and I think that government need to seriously grasp the nettle here and decide how we can help through legislation.

‘I believe that the onus, as long as the legislation is in place, the onus has to be with the family because it’s their loved one. We should not get into a situation as a state to be dictating when things – and obviously the medical staff will assist as to when that actual physical action takes place.

‘I fully support it.’

Isle of Man Newspapers’ election questionnaire for election candidates asked in September if they would be in support of permitting assisted dying.

Mr Smith said: ‘Yes, but there would have to be an exceptionally detailed consultation with the population and well drafted legislation in support.’

On May 24 of this year, Mr Smith stated in the House of Keys he would not support the Bill introduced by Ramsey MHK Alex Allinson.

‘Many members will be aware of my long-standing commitment to the Salvation Army, a Christian church and international charitable organisation,’ he said.

‘I would therefore oppose the introduction of any legalisation in support of assisted dying, assisted suicide or euthanasia in the Isle of Man.’

The MHK went on to explain that a wish to die often stems from loneliness as associated with depressive symptoms and the island has access to a ‘very broad and well established palliative care provision’.

He said: ‘We often speak about our island as an integrated community. Care is in the community and should not be just left to the care professionals. We should all have a moral conviction that it is important to communicate by word and deed to the sick, the elderly, the despairing and the dying that they are worthy of respect, they are loved and they will not be abandoned.’

Mr Smith came second in the general election in the Garff constituency.

Daphne Caine topped the poll and Mr Smith won his seat with 1112 votes, 91 more than third-placed Gareth Young.

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