Professional medical bodies should stop opposing assisted dying and take a neutral stance, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has said.
In an editorial, the journal warns that legislation on helping the terminally ill die is a decision for society, not for doctors.
It mentions a new poll, commissioned by campaign group Dignity in Dying, which found that 62% of doctors want medical bodies to take a neutral stance on the delicate subject.
Fiona Godlee, BMJ editor-in-chief, writes: “Doctors hold the means but the decision rests with society and its representatives in Parliament.
“A change in the law, with all the necessary safeguards, is an almost inevitable consequence of the societal move towards greater individual autonomy and patient choice.
“But it may take a while, and it may not happen until we value death as one of life’s central events and learn to see bad deaths in the same damning light as botched abortions.”
Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD), wants the British Medical Association (BMA) and royal colleges to move their position from opposition to neutrality.
HPAD’s chair Raymond Tallis, emeritus professor of geriatric medicine, also writes in the journal.
He said: “At the heart of the case for neutrality is that the decriminalisation of assisted dying should be a matter for society as a whole to decide, and no particular group should have disproportionate influence on this decision.
“Given the overwhelming support for assisted dying in society as a whole and given also that there are healthcare professionals of good will, different faiths, and expertise in palliative care, with passionate views on both sides of the debate, we believe that the proper stance of healthcare professional bodies is one of neutrality.”