Doctors have questioned the “stated impartiality and independence” of a commission investigating whether to change the law on assisted suicide.
The Commission on Assisted Dying claims to be neutral, but the doctors say it is packed with euthanasia supporters.
A motion has been passed at the British Medical Association’s (BMA) annual meeting criticising the commission for being unbalanced.
The motion was proposed by Dr Mark Pickering. It notes that a “significant majority” of the commission’s members are in favour of assisted suicide, and questions its “stated impartiality and independence”.
The commission is headed by Lord Falconer, who has previously tried and failed to weaken the law on assisted suicide in the House of Lords.
Dr Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship said: “Falconer’s commission was set up last November at the instigation of Dignity in Dying (formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society) to investigate how the law might be changed to allow assisted suicide and euthanasia.”
“The commission has said it will take oral and written ‘evidence’ throughout this year and produce a report in the autumn.
“Dignity in Dying’s hope was that the conclusions, when published, might influence parliament. This now looks very unlikely. Dignity in Dying was forced to go down the route of a private commission when its attempts to get a parliamentary committee to look at this issue failed.”
Dr Saunders added that the commission “has already received a lot of bad press on the grounds that it was unnecessary, unbalanced and lacking in transparency”.
And he continued: “Nine of Falconer’s twelve commissioners have publicly supported a change in the law to allow assisted suicide and the remaining three are certainly not against it.”
The full motion reads: “That this Meeting:-i) notes that the significant majority of members of Lord Falconer’s Commission on Assisted Dying are publically in favour of assisted suicide and euthanasia;
ii) supports the BMA’s stance in not giving evidence to the DEMOS Commission on Assisted Dying; iii) questions the stated impartiality and independence of the Commission on Assisted Dying;
iv) requests the BMA Ethics Committee to make the Association’s opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia clear to the Commission on Assisted Dying; v) requests the BMJ editorial team to present a balanced and unbiased coverage of the Commission on Assisted Dying.”