BMA urged to drop its opposition to assisted dying

Campaign groups have responded to a BMA report on assisted dying

Opinions on a possible law to allow doctors to help patients end their own lives have featured in British Medical Association (BMA) research published today (Thursday).

The BMA research, which has been welcomed by the campaign group Dignity in Dying, also found provisions for providing end of life care do not currently match expectations of either healthcare workers or the public.

As a result the BMA has urged the UK government to prioritise end of life care while pledging to discuss assisted dying at its annual representatives meeting later this year.

BMA representative body chair Ian Wilson said: ‘While positive steps forward such as the new guidelines for the NHS have been made, it is still essential that care for people who are dying becomes a top priority for governments across the UK.

‘Doctors need the time, support and sufficient training necessary for caring for people at their end of life, and patients must be able to access a high quality of end of life care wherever they live, whatever their medical condition.’

The BMA research, gathered from 237 doctors and 269 members of the public, found pockets of excellence exist but the variation in care levels between regions was still too great.

It also gauged the level of support for any possible move to make physician-assisted dying legal – something the BMA currently opposes – and how such an issue would affect doctor/patient relationships.

Dignity in Dying chief executive Sarah Wootton said: ‘We hope that the BMA will listen, not just to a handful of focus groups but to the 82% of the British public that support assisted dying for terminally ill people.

‘It is also crystal clear that many of the concerns raised by the public and doctors could easily be addressed if only the BMA engaged constructively in the debate rather than maintaining their intransigent opposition.’

Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying member Ray Tallis added: ‘The BMA has a responsibility to listen to patients’ wishes and to take a scientific and evidence-based approach to important matters of public policy.

‘Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying has listened to their patients and concluded that it is wrong to deny them choice over their own deaths if they are terminally ill.’

See the BMA report here

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