British Medical Association will follow Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of GPs in surveying members on assisted dying

Posted On: 
25th June 2019

Following a debate at the British Medical Association (BMA)’s Annual Representative Meeting this morning (25 June 2019), the BMA has voted to survey its members on its views on assisted dying

This follows an announcement from the Royal College of General Practitioners on Saturday (22 June 2019) that it will conduct its own survey. The Royal College of Physicians dropped its longstanding opposition to assisted dying in favour of neutrality following a survey of its members earlier this year.

Dr Jacky Davis, Chair of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying introduced the motion at the BMA meeting this morning:

“This vote is an important step for the BMA and means that members will be able to express their views on this historic issue. Earlier this year the Royal College of Physicians moved to a position of neutrality on assisted dying following a survey of members and just a few days ago the Royal College of General Practitioners announced it would survey its own members.

“It is becoming clear that there is a wide spectrum of views in the medical profession towards supporting greater patient choice at the end of life, and the policy of medical organisations needs to reflect that. Politicians and patients want to know what doctors think on this issue and we need all views to be heard. Our patients have wanted this choice for decades and we should be pleased that doctors are prepared to engage in the debate.”

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying:

“This is a welcome move which shows maturity and pragmatism. It will allow the BMA to accurately reflect the views of its 160,000 members across the UK. For many years, the BMA’s opposition has been interpreted as most doctors being opposed to assisted dying, despite this claim never being tested against the views of its membership.

“The Representative Body also acknowledged by a large majority that all patients should have autonomy and access to good quality end of life care, and also recognised that not all patient suffering can be alleviated.

“An assisted dying law would help address these issues, giving choice and compassion to dying people who are suffering unbearably at the end of life while providing robust protection to the rest of society, including doctors. 84% of the British public understand this and support a change in the law, and doctors are catching up.

“Following recent developments in Victoria in Australia and Maine and New Jersey in the US, soon 1 in 4 Australians, 1 in 5 Americans and all Canadians will have access to true choice at the end of life. Yet here in the UK, 0 Britons do. It is clear that this issue is not going away and it is vital that medical organisations provide an open and respectful platform for all views to be heard. What we must ensure is that the most important voices – terminally ill people and their loved ones - remain central in this debate.”