Britain's medical union to ask doctors if they oppose assisted dying

6 February 2020, 10:04

The BMA's current position is to oppose assisted dying
The BMA's current position is to oppose assisted dying. Picture: PA
Rachael Kennedy

By Rachael Kennedy

The British Medical Association (BMA) has begun surveying its members to see whether it should continue to oppose assisted dying.

The union, which has 160,000 members, has held its official position to disagree with the concept since 2006.

But medics attending the group's summer conference last year voted to hold a new poll on the topic.

The survey - carried out by an independent company - will ask whether members agree, oppose or hold a neutral stance on a potential law that would allow doctors to give eligible patients the medication to end their own lives.

It will also ask whether doctors should be able to administer these drugs themselves.

The decision to re-evaluate the stance comes after the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) switched to a neutral stance last year - also after a poll.

Results on a similar poll conducted by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) are due to be released next month.

In a statement, the chairman of the BMA's medical ethics committee, John Chisholm, highlighted that it was an "extremely sensitive issue" but that it was important to understand the views of the BMA's membership should there ever be a change in law.

But Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland said there were no plans to launch an inquiry into the issue.

He said: "Personally, I have grave doubts about the ability of legislation to be watertight when it comes to the potential for abuse.

"But, as Lord Chancellor, you will understand that whatever my personal view, I must listen to all sides of the debate on this complex issue."

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