BMA surveys doctors on assisted dying

Supporters of euthanasia and assisted suicide in the United Kingdom have cheered the British Medical Association’s survey of members on assisted dying. Polling began on February 6.

The BMA is officially opposed to a change in the law on assisted dying. The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) dropped its longstanding opposition in favour of neutrality following a controversial membership survey last year. The results of a recent poll by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) will be released later this month.

The BMA’s decision to survey its 160,000 members for their views on assisted dying follows a debate at its Annual Representative Meeting last June 2019 over a move to neutrality.

Sarah Wootton, of Dignity in Dying, applauded the survey. “With one Brit travelling to Switzerland for an assisted death every week, 300 terminally ill people ending their own lives in England every year, and many more suffering unbearably against their wishes, it is clear the current law is not working.”

Although Anglican Church appears to be declining  rapidly in the UK, the views of its clergy still have some influence. So the news that a former Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the English Church, has changed his mind on assisted dying could tip the scales for some people.

Writing in the BMJ’s blog, Lord George Carey, made a passionate plea for compassionate treatment of people with unbearable suffering.

“I ask you to consider why more assisted dying laws are being passed around the world, rather than existing ones repealed? Why have religious leaders in jurisdictions such as Oregon told me their societies have not descended into the dystopias once predicted by those who campaigned to block legislation? We should not shy away from these questions …

Laws do indeed send powerful social messages. I want to send the message that we live in a compassionate society that has the courage to confront complexity, not one that bases its rules on fear or misunderstanding.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge

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