Doctors have reiterated their opposition to assisted suicide and voted down a motion calling for their union to adopt a ‘neutral’ stance on the issue.
Professor Raymond Tallis tabled a motion calling for the British Medical Association (BMA) to drop its opposition and move to a “neutral position” on the issue.
But the proposal, which came amid a campaign to change the nation’s end-of-life laws, was rejected by delegates at the BMA’s annual conference earlier today.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, the BMA’s outgoing chairman, said the proposal is “probably the worst of all options” because it would exclude doctors from an argument that “would have a huge bearing on” their working lives.
Dr Dai Samuel said: “We must question what as doctors we stand for. I simply stand for looking after my patients and providing high quality care.
“I do not consider the killing of patients – whatever the reason is – justified. That is murder and I cannot commit that offence.”
And Professor Baroness Ilora Finlay, a professor of palliative care and crossbench Peer, said that the public would not understand why the BMA won’t express a view on the prescription of potentially lethal drugs.
She added: “The safeguards proposed are no more than a checklist.”
Dr Peter Saunders, a leading pro-life doctor, welcomed the result saying: “In rejecting this move the BMA has sent out a strong message that doctors must play a leading role in this debate which could otherwise be far too easily swayed by celebrity endorsement and media outlets who have consistently acted as the cheerleaders for assisted suicide and euthanasia.”
Prof Tallis, chairman of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying, had urged the union to adopt a neutral position on assisted suicide, claiming that the current system was “morally repugnant”.
The rejected motion also proposed that “assisted dying is a matter for society and not for the medical profession”.
But Dr Meldrum said: “The medical profession is not only part of society, but it would be members of the medical profession that would have to carry out the wishes of society were there to be a change in the law.”