Wednesday, June 27, 2012

British Medical Association (BMA) rejects assisted suicide

Doctors attending the British Medical Association (BMA) annual conference in Bournemouth upheld their position opposing assisted suicide by rejecting a motion to move to a neutral position on assisted suicide.

An article written by Ella Pickover and published today in the Independent reported on the BMA debate in this manner:

Members of the BMA voted down proposals for the organisation to take a neutral stance. 
Doctors speaking at the conference cautioned that a change in position would send the wrong message. 
The Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD) called for the BMA to move its position from opposition to "studied" neutrality. 
HPAD's chairman Professor Raymond Tallis presented the motion at the conference, saying that assisted dying should be a matter for society as a whole and not just for the medical profession. 
He also called on the union to adopt a neutral position on change in the law, saying the current system was "morally repugnant". 
"Those of you who argue that palliative care can address all the problems of all patients are simply ignoring clinical reality," he said. "A reality in which some patients seeking an end to their terrible suffering resort to death from dehydration and starvation, botched suicides or dreadful journeys to die abroad. 
"Neutrality is appropriate because the medical profession itself is divided. 
"The BMA should adopt a position, not of opposition or indeed of support, but of studied neutrality towards a change of law to permit assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults." 
In rebuttal, Dr Dai Samuel said: "We must question what as doctors we stand for. I simply stand for looking after my patients and providing high quality care. 
"I do not consider the killing of patients - whatever the reason is - justified. That is murder and I cannot commit that offence." 
BMA's outgoing chairman of council Dr Hamish Meldrum urged doctors not to take a neutral stance. 
He said: "The first part of this motion says that this is a matter for society and not for the medical profession. 
"The medical profession is not only part of society, but it would be members of the medical profession that would have to carry out the wishes of society were there to be a change in the law. 
"On (the second part of the motion) it says the BMA should adopt a neutral position on a change in the law. 
"I think adopting a neutral position is probably the worst of all options. Neutrality does tend to exclude us from the argument, an argument which would have a huge bearing on the working lives of doctors. 
Peter Saunders
"I don't come to this from any strong religious view but I do come to these views from having worked as a doctors for 40 years - mostly in general practice - where I have always felt I have been able, in almost every occasion, to support my patients when they were dying without having to actively end their lives." 
Campaign group Care Not Killing welcomed the decision. 
Spokesman Dr Peter Saunders said: "Majority medical opinion remains opposed to assisted dying and this vote is a victory for common sense. 
"We hope that the BMA will now continue its valuable work in campaigning for high quality compassionate care for patients at the end of life."
The BMA has once again maintained a position against assisted suicide, even after the euthanasia created an organised lobby within the BMA. It is important that doctors refuse to change their ethics and refuse to kill their patients.

A recent policy statement from the Canadian Palliative Care Physicians Association not only stated their opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide but stated that Palliative Care Physicians would not participate.

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