BMA doctors to consider allowing assisted suicide in the UK

Campaigners call on BMA to 'stop ignoring dying people'

Peter Yeung
Sunday 19 June 2016 19:29 BST
Multiple Sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy is a prominent campaigner for assisted suicide in the UK
Multiple Sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy is a prominent campaigner for assisted suicide in the UK (Getty Images)

Doctors chiefs have said they will debate whether to drop their opposition to assisted suicide.

A consultation by the British Medical Association, the trade union for doctors in the UK, into whether it should adopt a neutral stance on the highly controversial practice found many doctors raised concerns over helping people to die, which contradicts their prime role of saving their lives.

But campaigners have renewed their calls on the BMA to drop its opposition to assisted suicide, making reference a YouGov survey which found just 7 per cent backed the organisation’s current position.

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said: “Dying people continue to be forced to take matters into their own hands.

“More than one Briton a fortnight travels abroad to die and a further 300 terminally ill people take their own lives behind closed doors. The BMA should stop ignoring dying people, the wider British public and its members on this issue.”

But the BMA insisted it has “regularly debated” the issue of assisted dying at its annual conference, only for doctors to reject the motion.

A spokesperson for the BMA told The Independent: "We appreciate that there are strongly held views across society on this complex and emotive issue, and recognise the ongoing public debate around this subject.

“By engaging with doctors and members of the public in an eighteen-month long project, we have compiled a comprehensive body of qualitative research to look at the wider context of the issue and enable members to have informed discussions at this year’s conference, where they will be able to vote on whether to change the BMAs current position.”

In 2005, the BMA changed its position on assisted dying to neutral, according to the union, but a year later the decision was reversed. Since then, its says, the issue has been voted on four times.

Earlier this week, Canada passed a contentious bill to allow medically-assisted death for terminally ill people.

The law also requires that two independent witnesses be present when the patient signs a request for a doctor-assisted death.

Last year, 600 refugees in Australian detention centre wrote open letter demanding assisted suicide to to escape being "tortured and traumatised" every day.

The Department for Health declined to comment.

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