Ilora Finlay, Baroness Finlay of Llandaff was in Jersey last week to meet government officials, States members and deliver a lecture to medical professionals on palliative care.
Baroness Finlay is a doctor, professor of palliative medicine and Crossbench member of the House of Lords who, in 1987, became the first consultant in palliative medicine in Wales. She continues to play a role in the ongoing development of palliative and hospice services across the world.
On Thursday there was a drop-in event held at Jersey library when States members were invited to meet and discuss palliative care with Baroness Finlay. During the event Lady Finlay gave a short presentation when she laid clear her thoughts and vision.
She said: “Up until now hospice care has been viewed as a frilly extra, an add-on, and for years I have been trying to get it viewed as a core service.” She went on to say: “You wouldn’t have a cake sale for a woman in obstructed labour to have a caesarean section, so why would you have to have a fundraiser so that people who are dying can have the care that they need and can have.”
In England the law has now moved on so that it is not an ‘add-on’ but a core component of care services, and this is the stance that she promotes and would like to see adopted in Jersey.
On Thursday afternoon she visited and was given a tour of Jersey Hospice, before later appearing in a live interview with Jess Dunsdon on the evening ITV news programme. During the interview Mrs Dunsdon challenged Ilora about her views about safeguards on Assisted Dying.
“They aren’t safeguards, they are qualifying conditions,” came the response. Baroness Finlay spoke of her concerns, and highlighted statistics from other jurisdictions – Canada, Belgium and Holland – that have already changed the law (Switzerland don’t report the figures). She put this into context by demonstrating how it would translate in Jersey when measured on a proportionate scale, and the result was that we would likely see between 30 to 50 Assisted Deaths per year.
Lady Finlay spoke of particular concern when reviewing the situation in Canada where the number of Assisted Deaths has increased ten-fold in the last 5 years to over 10,000 per annum, and where the Parliamentary Budget Office quoted that the country’s health services saved an estimated $87 million in 2021 as a result of medically assisted dying.
Justifying assisted dying as a way of saving a country money doesn’t seem right, and when questioned about safeguards in place she responded: “It is incredibly easy to expand boundaries. Canada has already expanded their ‘services’ to include people with mental illness.”
Palliative care in the developed world is the science of helping dying patients as they die. It should be treated as an essential service that is there when others aren’t, and when it is needed. Baroness Finlay gave examples from her lifetime of experience, showing how easy it is for doctors to make mistakes when estimating how long a patient has to live.
When questioned about the consultation document that is currently out in Jersey, she argued that there is nothing included in it about how the assessments are going to be looked at and conducted. Lady Finlay expressed concern in asking the assembly to vote for something that isn’t clear, likening it to asking somebody to sign a blank cheque.
She explained: “In changing a law, you have to consider the potential unintended consequences. The problem for a legislator is that you have to make sure that you are legislating for your whole population to be safe.”
Baroness Finlay recognised that of course people are frightened about the future when given notice of a terminal illness, and there are horror stories in the media, but argued that you tend not to hear the good stories in the media about people dying well. She said: “The number of people dying well is far greater than it ever used to be, and it can be even better.”
On Friday she delivered a lecture on ‘Palliative Care’ to approximately 70 attendees made up of doctors, nurses and other medical support staff at the Halliwell Theatre in the General Hospital.
The Friday lunchtime lecture is a regular meeting open to Health Care Professionals including Hospital Staff and General Practitioners, which provides an opportunity for continual professional development and education on medical topics, including updates on more recent developments in health care.
Baroness Finlay has been invited to return to Jersey in the New Year to follow up on her work from this visit.