'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
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    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
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    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
    +1

    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
    +1

    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
    +2

    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!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 100.

    Suicide should be made legal for everyone, if someone lacks the quality of life to want to live, why should they be forced to suffer or attempt a squalid DIY suicide that may or may not work out? What people do with their life is their own business. Right now the government are making many peoples lives simply unbearable, so they can at least do the decent thing and offer them a release.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 99.

    96.studentnurse1654

    Certainely agree it's a fine line, but for me the issue is the same - a decision is made and a consequence follows. The fact that death is then natural is simply the process that follows.

    And of course turing off life support could end a life that might continue (albeit in a vegetative state) for many many years, with even a minutely small chance of recovery.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 98.

    95 studentnurse1654

    Few would argue against the value of good palliative care, but that needn't be incompatible with assisted dying. With good care, many might choose not to exercise their right to an assisted death but, without that right available, those faced with a progressive decline and lingering death may choose to "get out while they still can" and take their own lives months earlier.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 97.

    92Chris mather

    You label Iona Heath (Pres. RCGP) intellectually bankrupt for mentioning "the involvement of doctors in state sponsored killings, personified by Josef Mengele, and the devastating private enterprise of Harold Shipman".

    Why ignore facts?

    The argument is that not all doctors are saints...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 96.

    Chippsin 93.

    Euthanasia is not the same as withdrawl of treatment, Euthanasia is deliberately acting to end someone's life. Withdrawl of treatment is the stopping of overzealous interventions and letting them go naturally. I do see your point that it is a fine line as the withdrawl is itself an action but its more the removal of unfairly extending somebody's life- rather than actively ending it.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 95.

    Personally, i believe AD should not be legalised. This is not because i agree with people suffering or prolonging life when the quality is so poor.. i just feel that if palliative care is good enough then it shouldn't be necessary. And that the risks associated with legalisation, e.g patients feeling a burden or misuse of the act being taken place, the slippery slope/wedge argument are too great.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 94.

    2. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart - and if we legislate that its okay, by definition it can no longer be murder.

    If you want to play the do not harm card, then take one of the examples listed here, a person with late cancer of the osouphegas who has zero quality of life, and zero treatment. i would argue that the pain and suffering is of greater harm to the patient than a peaceful elective death.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 93.

    We already conduct euthanasia by turning off life support systems.

    Sure we call it something else, put forward many reasons but essentially a decision is made to end a life which could be sustained by mechanical means, but there is no forseeable prospect of any quality of life.

    Logically if euthanasia cannot be countenanced under any circumstances, we should never switch off the machines.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 92.

    Iona Heath, president of the Royal College of General Practitioners, wrote, "the involvement of doctors in state sponsored killings, personified by Josef Mengele, and the devastating private enterprise of Harold Shipman".

    Clearly, she's intellectually bankrupt. No reasoned argument at all.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 91.

    I wouldn't want us to end up with a system whereby any doctor, nurse or other medical practitioner would be legally or contractually obliged to act against his or her conscience. However, I don't think that need be an insurmountable problem. I'd like to think that, if it were legal, and if someone I cared about truly wished to end his or her life, I'd be prepared to do it myself if necessary.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 90.

    Fiona Godlee, BMJ editor-in-chief, argued that "legalisation is a decision for society not doctors"

    This is the real story here, not whether assisted suicide is right or wrong.

    Bravo Ms Godlee, bravo. Absolutely correct. The role of the 'expert' is to explain and advise, not to make public policy.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 89.

    As a nurse I would not want the responsibility of ending someones life. However, as a family member,I want the right to fulfill my family's wishes including if they opt for assisted dying. My Grandma died of motor neurone disease which she desperately tried to finish herself but was unable. I would not want ending life to be incorporated into the nurses role but I believe we should have the choice

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 88.

    The vast majority of doctors do empathise with the wishes of these patients. But regardless of how fair or just it might seem to an observer, my experience is you would be hard pressed to find many doctors who would be willing to intentionally end an individuals life, even on these grounds. Selfish? Maybe, but we also have to cope with the emotional outcome for the other parties concerned.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 87.

    The weakness in Godlee's abortion comparison being that 50 years on many abortions are considered routine matters decided on the grounds of convenience, rather than the last resort destruction of a human life due to physical or mental danger to the mother... Where would we be after half a century of assisted dying?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 86.

    Hypocratic Oath: DO NO HARM.
    What do you call allowing a human being to wallow in pain without hope, or allowing a human being to exist who daily fears choking on her own food, etc. etc. etc. I'd call it torture, & torture does harm - physically, mentally & emotionally. AD is not neutral; it's normally a heart-breaking situation, but if patient is competent, choice should belong to patient.

 

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