Medical professionals are about to launch a campaign to allow people the legal right to end their life through assisted suicide.
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Nurses and other healthcare professionals belonging to group called Healthcare Professionals for Change are confronting the opposing views of established industry groups such as the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Physicians.
The HPC is the first professional organisation to be established for the purpose of changing the Suicide Act 1961.
Group founder Ann McPherson, a doctor who has terminal pancreatic cancer, said many doctors believe patients “should not have to suffer against their wishes at the end of life”.
She added: “By taking a hostile approach to a change in the law on assisted dying, medical bodies such as the BMA and the Royal College of Physicians are failing to adequately reflect the views of all their members.
“Alongside access to good-quality end-of-life care we believe that terminally ill, mentally competent patients should be able to choose an assisted death, subject to safeguards.”
Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity In Dying, which backs HPC, said: “It’s a real move forward. It’s important for doctors to be able to challenge the views of the BMA and other medical bodies. They need to be able to represent a wider viewpoint.”
The Royal College of Nursing moved from opposing assisted suicide to a neutral position last summer, and the HPC aims to encourage other Royal Colleges and the BMA to follow suit.
Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA’s head of sciences and ethics, said: “Assisted dying is illegal in the UK so doctors are not permitted to help terminally ill competent adults to die.”
It was a “complex and emotive issue”, she said but a motion to support assisted suicide has never been passed by BMA members at their annual meetings.