'Stop opposing assisted dying' - BMJ

A living will Assisting a suicide is illegal throughout the UK

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The British Medical Journal has called on doctors' organisations to stop opposing assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults.

In an editorial the BMJ said it wanted the British Medical Association and royal colleges to move their position from opposition to neutrality.

Fiona Godlee, BMJ editor-in-chief, argued that "legalisation is a decision for society not doctors" and drew parallels with abortion legalisation in the 1960s which was initially opposed by medical bodies.

She said: "A change in the law, with all the necessary safeguards, is an almost inevitable consequence of the societal move towards greater individual autonomy and patient choice. But it may take a while, and it may not happen until we properly value death as one of life's central events and learn to see bad deaths in the same damning light as botched abortions."

The BMJ said it backed calls from the campaign group Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD) which wanted medical bodies to be neutral on the issue.

Iona Heath, president of the Royal College of General Practitioners, wrote in the BMJ last month that the "apparently burgeoning enthusiasm" for assisted dying seemed surprising given recent history. This included "the involvement of doctors in state sponsored killings, personified by Josef Mengele, and the devastating private enterprise of Harold Shipman".

She said it would be impossible to draft a law robust enough to protect the sick and disabled, adding: "A malign government coming into power with legislation supporting assisted dying already in place is a deeply disturbing prospect. As individuals, very few of us act always in the interests of others and, because of this very basic truth, the legalisation of assisted dying, despite the very best of intentions, may render the most vulnerable even more so."

A BMA spokesperson said the organisation was "firmly opposed" to the legalisation of assisted dying adding: "If assisted dying was legalised, effective safeguards could not be implemented without the involvement of doctors. It is therefore appropriate for doctors to voice their views on this issue."

The BMA annual meeting later this month will debate several motions urging neutrality on the issue of assisted dying.

Fergus Walsh Article written by Fergus Walsh Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Our country is not ruled by Doctors/Politicians - it's still organised religion that controls our lawmaking. Religions have paid NO taxes ever so they have amassed fortunes. They invest these fortunes in our stock markets. If they don't get what they want from the government they threaten to pull out that cash and crash our stock markets. Religion is the reason we don't have assisted suicide laws.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Living wills, sworn in front of a JUDGE (not a solicitor) and confirmed say every 5 years (sometimes people change their minds) should be respected Anyone who does not have a living will should be provided with the very best palliative care. Ina civilized world there is no justification for inflictig pain and suffering when it could be alleviated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    Ending someone's life is not a neutral act and the doctors are not in a neutral position in this; they are the people expected to carry out that act. They have every right to express their opinion on this matter and it is wrong for the BMJ to ask them to stay out of the debate when they are at the very centre of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    99. Chipsin

    I agree, thats a horrific case, and one that is logical for AD to take place.in that case i'd imagine that food may be withdrawn and strong medication prescribed to make them as comfortable as possible. No, it's not ideal, or pleasant or desirable. For me though, that is the lesser of two evils, because no one should be forced to die if they want to be alive but can't let anyone know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    98. Miss Ingoff

    I know, and that's why this is such a controversial issue, because neither outcomes are ideal and both present serious problems. It would undoubtedly be kinder in some circumstances, but the difficulty is that i don't think that the risks are worth it, because the moral slip of abortion happened, and what's to say it wouldn't happen with this? That's a situation to be avoided!


Comments 5 of 105



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