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BMJ calls for neutral stance on assisted dying


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.”



Readers' comments (6)

  • This debate is so deeply entrenched it is almost pointless - but the move is towards allowing assisted dying, and I think it will come at some point.

    Why do we have laws which effectively fail to relieve the suffering of some people who are in intolerably distressing situations, and who want to be 'out of it' ? And why do we think that anyone who isn't in that awful situation, gets a valid vote about it ?

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  • We have laws, based on God's law and the hippocratic oath , that no one should have the power to take another person's life and if a sick person SEEMS to want to die rather than live in their present state, it is a reflextion on nursing standards! It's our duty to eliviate symptoms and bring as much relief and happiness to such people, not advice or assists them to 'opt out.'No one wants to be ill but I maintain tthat very few who are ill, want to die, they want help to live. Well done BMA in refusing to be instruments of death, instead of hope. Nurse Opposed to Euthanasia

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  • In a secular and multi culti society are those who do not worship God or who are non-believers expected to comply to 'God's Laws'?

    We live in times when laws and regulations are being severely tested .

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  • is this the same god who suggests that anyone who descrates the sabbath must die (exodus 31: 12-15), or exhorts death for cursing your parents (Leviticus 20:9), or says that homosexuals should die?

    And how do you determine if a patient SEEMS to want to die? how arrogant to suggest that they don't know what they want or that it is a reflection of nursing standards.

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  • The claim that adequate relief of suffering should always be possible, with adequate nursing, is open to test by observation - and it is not a claim supported by observation. The anti-assisted dying lobby, sometimes make that claim.

    And it is absurd to claim that a person can be the judge of another person's suffering !

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  • Since when did entrenchment make the debate almost pointless?
    Surely, and c. respect, that is tantamount to defeatism.

    Belief in God's Will (and I speak as a committed Christian) is not the issue here. It is not for those of us who hold strong religious beliefs to pontificate about this. It polarises on what is best for the patient.

    A patient - at a terminal stage - able to decide for him/herself not to continue to live c. pain that cannot be alleviated, should have access to facilitated life termination. It is a decision for THAT patient and NOT a decision for anyone else - doctors, nurses or society.

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