The BMA must change its stance on assisted dying

We represent a broad coalition of medics, including members of the British Medical Association (BMA), and call on the BMA to respect the outcome of its independent members’ survey on assisted dying, and to adopt a neutral stance on law reform.

In an era when modern medicine can extend the length of an individual’s life, but not necessarily its quality, we believe that those with terminal or incurable conditions deserve a choice about how, where and when they die.

As medical professionals, we believe that it is our first responsibility to preserve life. But that does not mean we should prolong it at any cost. We advocate for the provision of high-quality palliative care. Yet we recognise, as both the European Association for Palliative Care and Palliative Care Australia have concluded, that strong palliative medicine and the choice of an assisted death are not mutually exclusive.

Of course, individual doctors who oppose legal changes should have a right to have their voices heard. But their convictions should not silence the majority of us (61%, according to the BMA’s survey) who support a change in the BMA’s policy.

With the possibility of legislation now in sight, neutrality will allow us to contribute our expertise and better inform the public’s debate. But importantly, with the momentum behind this cause continuing to grow, it will also show our patients that we are listening to their concerns and that we respect their choices.

As medics, we pledged to respect our patients’ autonomy. Now is the moment to put such a principle into action.
Dr Henry Marsh Neurosurgeon, Sir Iain Chalmers Founder, the Cochrane Collaboration, and acting coordinator, the James Lind Initiative, Dr Graham Winyard Former deputy chief medical officer, NHS England, Dr Michael Irwin Former medical director, the UN, Dr Phil Hammond Physician

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