The British Medical Association (BMA) “remains firmly opposed” to assisted suicide after the British Medical Journal (BMJ) expressed support for a change in the law.
An editorial in the BMJ said that recognising a patient’s right “to determine his or her best interests” is at the centre of the journal’s “strategy to advance the patient revolution in healthcare”.
“People should be able to exercise choice over their lives, which should include how and when they die, when death is imminent”, the editorial said.
It was written by the BMJ’s editor-in-chief Fiona Godlee, UK editor Tony Delamothe and patient editor Rosamund Snow.
But Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the BMA council, said the pro-assisted suicide position of the BMJ does not reflect the views of the BMA or the medical profession.
“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”, he said.
“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”, he added.
A Bill that is seeking to change the law to allow terminally ill patients to obtain lethal drugs to kill themselves is currently in the House of Lords.
The Bill, tabled by Lord Falconer, has its second reading on 18 July.
Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of the Care Not Killing Alliance, criticised the BMJ editorial.
He said: “While autonomy is important it has to be balanced against other principles including public safety.
“None of us believes autonomy is absolute, if we did we would have to say that there was no place for law because every single law restricts personal autonomy”, he added.