Doctors in the United Kingdom, through their British Medical Association, have voted to abandon their opposition to physician-assisted suicide.
“This means we will neither support nor oppose attempts to change the law. We will not be silent on this issue, however. We have a responsibility to represent our members’ interests and concerns in any future legislative proposals and will continue to engage with our members to determine their views,” the organization announced.
The organization pointed out that the doctors, like “the wider public,” hold a variety of views on “physician-assisted dying.”
The BMA explained its representative body voted to change the organization’s position from opposition to a change in the law to a position of neutrality.
According to the Christian Institute, the vote was 149-145.
“Speaking against the proposal … palliative care expert Baroness Finlay of Llandaff described ‘neutrality’ as a ‘fig leaf,’ arguing that it would only serve as a ‘precursor’ to legalization,” the report said.
“Lady Finlay also feared that ending people’s lives would become ‘routine’ and that conscience clauses that allow doctors to decline being involved in the process would be eroded over time.”
Dr. Gillian Wright, a medical ethicist, went even further, affirming the motion was in fact about “approval for euthanasia,” the report said.
A year ago, the Royal College of General Practitioners expressed opposition to the adoption of assisted suicide following a survey of its members.
That assessment found 47% of the 6,674 members said the College should oppose a change in the law, while 40% said it should support a change.
The law, as it stands now for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, forbids anyone from intentionally encouraging or assisting the suicide or attempted suicide of another.
The penalty is up to 14 years in prison for the offense.
The BMA said physician-assisted dying refers to “doctors’ involvement in measures intentionally designed to end a patient’s life.”
That could be by prescribing a lethal dose of drugs, or even administering that lethal dose.
The BMA said as a basic level, what would be required would be for the dying people to be adult, have the mental ability to make the decision, have made a voluntary request, and be diagnosed with a terminal illness or “serious physical illness causing intolerable suffering that cannot be relieved.”
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