The Daily Telegraph
BMA drops its official opposition to assisted dying
THE British Medical Association has dropped its opposition to assisted dying and adopted a neutral stance after a vote at its annual representative meeting.
It comes as the Assisted Dying Bill is due to return to the House of Lords for its second reading next month.
Some 49 per cent of the BMA’S representative body voted yesterday in favour of a motion for it to move to a position of neutrality on assisted dying, including physician-assisted dying, with 48 per cent against it and 3 per cent abstaining.
Historically, the BMA has been opposed to a change in the law on assisted dying. The union said that while the decision means it will neither support nor oppose attempts to change the law, it will not be silent on the issue and has “a responsibility to represent its members’ interests and concerns in any future legislative proposals”.
The debate comes after a survey showed that 40 per cent of members said the BMA should support attempts to change the law on prescribing drugs for eligible patients to self-administer to end their own life, with 33 per cent favouring opposition and 21 per cent saying the union should be neutral.
The first survey to poll BMA members on their views on assisted dying also found that 50 per cent personally believed that there should be a change in the law, with 39 per cent opposed.
Proposing the motion at the BMA’S annual representative meeting, Dr Robin Arnold said moving to a neutral position will allow the BMA to represent all its members. He added: “You do not have to decide today whether you are in favour of physician-assisted dying or against it, you have to consider how best the wide range of views of our membership can be represented.”
But some members warned that a neutral stance would be seen as “tacit” approval of euthanasia. Dr Gillian Wright said: “This motion is actually about euthanasia. The BMA defines physician-assisted dying as assisted suicide and euthanasia. We know that neutrality means tacit approval and has enormous political significance.”
Dr Jacky Davis, chair of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying, said: “The BMA should be commended for listening to its members and for adopting a position which now represents the range of views on assisted dying among doctors fairly and accurately. A neutral position promotes inclusion, respects diversity of thought and gives the BMA a seat at the table in this historic debate.”
Baroness Meacher, the peer behind the Assisted Dying Bill, believes it has enough votes to pass. Following the BMA vote she said she is feeling “very chipper”.
“This is a very, very big shift,” she told The Telegraph.