The British Medical Association Must Not Abandon Its Long-Standing Opposition to Assisted Suicide
The British Medical Association (BMA) is holding its Annual Representative Meeting (19-23 June) in Belfast and assisted suicide lobby group ‘Dignity in Dying’ (formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society) are attempting to hijack the meeting to pressure the BMA to drop its current and longstanding position opposing physician-assisted suicide
This is in spite of the strong parliamentary rejections of assisted suicide last year when the Marris-Falconer ‘Assisted Dying’ Bill was debated in the House of Commons (330-118) and the Harvie-MacDonald Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill was debated in the Scottish Parliament (82-36). The majority of elected representatives rightly recognised the danger that this kind of legislation poses to the most vulnerable in our society as many will inevitably feel that they are a burden to be removed through an assisted suicide.
Above all though, doctors should exist to assist us to live and not to die. With excellent palliative care options, research finds that that the vast majority of people do not wish to kill themselves. This is clearly where the focus of the BMA should lie.
Medical opinion is currently strongly opposed to assisted suicide, in part due to their recognition of the adverse effect that it would have on the most vulnerable in our society: the Royal College of General Practitioners (2014, following 'one of the most comprehensive consultations the College has ever undertaken'), the Royal College of Physicians (London) (2014, following a survey of fellows and members) and the Association for Palliative Medicine (2015, following a survey) all continue to echo the majority of doctors' opposition to physician assisted suicide. The BMA should continue to do the same.
The current stance of the BMA recognises the equality of all people including disabled people and the terminally ill. Permitting assisted suicide in cases of terminal illness and/or disability would be to fail to treat these people as equals. It would encourage suicide in a small segment of the population (the terminally ill and/or disabled people) whilst forbidding it for everyone else. The BMA then would in effect be saying that some lives are worth more than others, and this is something that no one, let alone doctors, should be doing.
It is worth noting especially that the data from Oregon (where assisted suicide is legal) shows that the majority of ‘end of life concerns’ for those who committed suicide, were not medical concerns at all. Instead, they listed existential concerns like ‘loss of autonomy’, ‘loss of dignity’ and ‘burden on family, friends/caregivers’. Feeling like this is a great sadness and something which the medical profession and wider society should do its best to change.
Yet these are not medical problems, which can be solved through medical means. These are personal and social problems whose solution is not death, but love and assistance to live so that people considering suicide for whatever reason are able to see the dignity that was always their’s.
Sign this petition to the BMA ahead of their meeting urging them to continue to oppose physician assisted suicide.
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The BMA Must Not Abandon its Historic Opposition to Physician Assisted Suicide