British doctors’ union drops opposition to assisted suicide

Chisolm noted a responsibility to uphold conscience rights for doctors, should doctor-prescribed suicide become legal in the United Kingdom. 

“Assisted dying is a highly emotive and sensitive topic that inspires a broad spectrum of views and opinions both across the wider public and among the medical profession, for whom any change of law would have a profound impact,” he said.

In the United Kingdom, “assisted dying,” “euthanasia,” and “physician-assisted suicide” are illegal. Residents seeking to end their lives in these procedures must travel to the Swiss clinic Dignitas. In 2019, 42 people from Great Britain traveled to Dignitas to end their lives, which was an increase from 24 in 2018. 

The British doctors’ association was moved to consider changing its official position on the matter following a survey of members published in October 2020. According to the survey, 40% of respondents said the organization “should actively support attempts to change the law,” and 21% of respondents argued for the “neutral” position on assisted suicide. One-third of respondents advocated for the association to maintain its opposition stance. 

Furthermore, half of the respondents said that the United Kingdom should allow for doctors to prescribe drugs that would kill their patients. 

The recent vote concerned a motion stating, “In order to represent the diversity of opinion demonstrated in the survey of its membership, the BMA should move to a position of neutrality on assisted dying including physician-assisted dying.”

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