Fewer than one in five doctors would be willing to help patients commit suicide according to a new poll.
Of the 600 doctors surveyed, 58 per cent oppose the legalisation of assisted suicide – a significant increase from the last time the survey asked the question ten years ago.
Only 19 per cent indicated they would be prepared to assist in the suicide of a patient. In contrast, 56 per cent would refuse, with the rest unsure, according to the Medix consultancy poll. All the major medical associations also oppose the change.
Dr Tony Calland, chairman of the British Medical Association’s ethics committee, said: “Many doctors have first-hand experience of caring for dying patients and believe that rather than deliberately ending a patient’s life, we should instead be focusing on building the very best of palliative care for those in distress”.
He commented: “Doctors have repeatedly expressed their opposition to assisted dying when it has been debated regularly at the BMA’s annual conference that sets our policy, which since 2006 has been to oppose assisted dying in all its forms.”
Alistair Thompson, a spokesman for Care Not Killing, said: “Doctors know that this is not needed, will take money away from palliative care, and it will damage the relationship they have with their patients.”
“The fact that so few doctors want to have any part in this macabre change in the law shows it is unworkable and would lead to the slippery slope we have seen in other countries”, he added.
In response Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity in Dying (formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society), said: “If one in five doctors was willing to assist that would provide around 7,000 registered GPs willing, within the legal safeguards, to help a patient.”
A poll in July showed public opposition to assisted suicide rose from 12 per cent to 43 per cent when those surveyed considered increasing amounts of evidence about the nature of assisted suicide.
Republic of Ireland
In the Republic of Ireland, the Left Alliance member of parliament John Halligan is introducing a new bill on assisted suicide when parliament returns in the Autumn.
He is doing so after the Irish Supreme Court ruled that Marie Fleming, a terminally ill lady with Multiple Sclerosis, did not have the constitutional right to die or to be assisted to do so.