Oppose assisted dying, says BMA

By Nick Triggle
Health correspondent, BBC News

Image caption, Assisting a suicide is illegal throughout the UK

Doctors have reiterated their opposition to assisted dying, at their annual conference.

Delegates at the British Medical Association's meeting in Bournemouth debated the issue after a motion calling for the organisation to take a neutral stance was put forward.

But medics voted to reject the proposal.

Doctors speaking at the event warned a change in position would send the wrong message.

The motion to move from opposing a change in the law to taking a neutral stance was proposed by Raymond Tallis, a retired geriatrician and chairman of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying.

He is in favour of assisted dying for patients who are terminally ill and mentally competent.

He told the conference: "Assisted dying is a matter for society as a whole and not for the medical profession."

He added the current law, which prohibits assisted dying, was forcing people into "starving themselves to death, botched suicides and trips abroad".

But other doctors at the conference spoke out against the idea.

Prof Baroness Ilora Finlay, a cross-bench peer and professor of palliative care, said it was essential that doctors "never walk away from patients".

She said: "Neutrality does not bring balance to the debate. It says to Parliament we see it as an acceptable option."

And Rebecca Briscoe, a junior doctor, said changing the BMA's stance would "breach the trust" of patients as assisted dying was a "cheap, easy and incredibly dangerous" option.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA, also said he would be opposed to moving to a neutral position.

He called it the "worse of all options" as it would have the effect of excluding the organisation from the debate.

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