BMA surveys members on assisted dying stance

The BMA has launched a survey among members to re-examine its stance on assisted dying.

The organisation is currently opposed to assisted dying in all forms.

BMA members will be asked whether they believe the organisation should support, oppose, or take a neutral stance on a change in the law to permit doctors to prescribe drugs for eligible patients to end their own life. Members will also be asked if they believe the BMA should support allowing doctors to administer drugs with the intention of ending an eligible patient's life.

The decision to conduct a survey was decided in a vote carried out at last year's Annual Representative Meeting (ARM). The BMA's current policy on assisted dying has stood since 2006. The results of the survey will feed into a subsequent debate on the matter at this year's ARM in June.

Dr John Chisholm, BMA Medical Ethics Committee chair, said: "Physician-assisted dying is an extremely sensitive issue that understandably ignites a broad range of strong personal views across both the general public and the medical profession.

"Doctors and medical students have a particular interest in discussions around legislation because any change in the law would impact on them not just personally but professionally. Therefore, this poll will allow us to gather information about the breadth of views held by our membership, which will then inform any future policy decisions and how we respond to any proposals for a change in the law."

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of the campaigning group Dignity in Dying commented: "This survey is a welcome move which shows maturity and pragmatism. For many years, the BMA's opposition has been interpreted as most doctors being opposed to assisted dying, despite this claim never being tested against the views of its membership."

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