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BMA consultants vote through motion to ensure they don’t have to be involved with assisted suicide

Senior doctors have voted in favour of a motion calling for the “BMA to ensure that consultants are not expected to be involved in provision of assisted suicide in any way” if it were to become law in the UK.

Yesterday, at the British Medical Association (BMA)’s ‘UK consultants conference 2024’, consultant doctors voted 53% to 37% in favour of the motion, introduced by the Southern regional consultants committee. The motion noted the “ongoing media and political pressure to legalise assisted dying in the UK” with the assumption that “this will be carried out in health care facilities”.

It also made reference to a 2020 BMA survey that found 70% of palliative care doctors opposed a change in the medical body’s stance, whilst just 7% were in favour. The poll also revealed that 54% of doctors would not be willing to participate actively in the process of administering life-ending drugs. Only 26% said they would be willing, and 20% were undecided.

Speaking in favour of the motion, one senior doctor explained that “the nature and practice of medicine is in imminent danger of being changed completely, and damaged beyond recognition” by the possibility that assisted suicide is made legal.

“In Canada, we know doctors are leaving the profession, because assisted [suicide] is being promoted, and they are expected to participate” he continued.

“We studied for all those long years… we did those horrendous nights and weekends on-call… we spent so much precious time and energy gaining our specialist training and qualifications, to prepare us to cure our patients where possible and to relieve their symptoms always. We did not do it so we could be called on to kill them”.

“The government, the public and our employers must not be allowed to demand this of us – it would irreparably undermine the trust that is central to our doctor-patient relationship… and cause us huge moral distress”.

In 2021, the BMA decided by a margin of only four votes to change the Association’s position on assisted suicide from opposition to neutrality. 

149 (49%) voted in support of the motion, 145 (48%) voted against and eight (3%) abstained.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson, said “While the BMA changed to a neutral position on assisted suicide in 2021, this vote shows the most senior doctors believe they should not be expected to be involved in the provision of assisted suicide were it to become legal”.

“Importantly, those working most closely with patients at the end of life should be given particular regard and it is encouraging to see that the majority of them continue to oppose assisted suicide according to the 2020 BMA survey”. 

Dear reader,

MPs will shortly vote on proposed changes to the law, brought forward by Labour MPs Stella Creasy and Diana Johnson, that would introduce the biggest change to our abortion laws since the Abortion Act was introduced in 1967.

These proposed changes to the law would make it more likely that healthy babies are aborted at home for any reason, including sex-selective purposes, up to birth.

Polling undertaken by ComRes, shows that only 1% of women support introducing abortion up to birth and that 91% of women agree that sex-selective abortion should be explicitly banned by the law.

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