Northern Ireland Scotland England Wales

Last updated:

BMA reiterates opposition to assisted dying

The BMA has reiterated its firm opposition to legalising assisted dying in the face of renewed calls for a change in the law.

dying with dignityAn editorial in the BMJ today calls for the Assisted Dying Bill championed by Lord Falconer to become law.

BMJ editor-in-chief Fiona Godlee, UK editor Tony Delamothe and patient editor Rosamund Snow argue that people should be able to exercise choice over their lives, which should include how and when they die.

They write: ‘Ultimately, however, this is a matter for Parliament, not doctors, to decide. Let us hope that our timid lawmakers will rise to the challenge.’

The BMJ is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BMA but has editorial independence.

BMA council chair Mark Porter acknowledged there were strongly held views within the medical profession on both sides of the assisted-dying debate.

But he insisted: ‘The BMA remains firmly opposed to legalising assisted dying. This issue has been regularly debated at the BMA’s policy-forming annual conference and recent calls for a change in the law have persistently been rejected.’

Different views

Dr Porter added: ‘[The BMJ's] position on assisted dying is an editorial decision and does not reflect the views of the BMA or the medical profession. Our focus must be on making sure every patient can access the very best of palliative care, which empowers patients to make decisions over their care.’

Lord Falconer’s bill is due to have its second reading in the Lords later this month. If it became law, it would allow adults with six months or less to live to be given assistance to end their lives.

Two doctors would have to be satisfied the person was terminally ill, has the capacity to make the decision, and has a clear intent to do so. This decision must not have been made under coercion. Doctors would then be able to prescribe lethal doses of drugs.

Last month, campaigners lost a right-to-die appeal at the UK supreme court — but judges urged Parliament to look at the current law.

In February, the Royal College of GPs announced it remained opposed to changes to the law on assisted dying after a widespread consultation of its members.

 Find out about the BMA's policy on assisted dying

 Find out more about the Assisted Dying Bill

The story so far