Palliative care doctors speak out against assisted suicide

Palliative care doctors have spoken out against politicians pushing for medical professionals to back assisted suicide.

The seven doctors, including three consultants in palliative medicine, were responding to MSPs who called on groups such as the British Medical Association (BMA) to end their opposition to the practice.

The BMA recently polled its members on their views, shortly after the Royal College of General Practitioners announced it would to continue opposing legalisation – a stance the MSPs called “outdated” – after a similar poll of its members.

Making doctors killers

In an uncompromising letter to The Scotsman, the doctors wrote: “As doctors who care for seriously ill and terminally-ill patients every day, we are all too aware of the complexities and challenges of individual cases and the need to ensure excellent palliative care is available to all from the moment of diagnosis.

“However, the reality is that the MSPs in your report are calling for a fundamental change to the criminal law through which doctors will be licensed to supply vulnerable patients with lethal drugs with the intention of ending their lives.

“It is not enough for campaigners and a minority of politicians to simply ‘demand’ that we doctors drop our opposition to becoming involved in such a controversial practice.

“If doctors are uneasy about the introduction of an ‘assisted dying’ regime across the UK, it is based on a sound experience of the realities of clinical practice, the safety of our patients and the disturbing reports which have emerged from jurisdictions which have legalised physician-assisted death.”

‘Every life has value’

Assisted suicide was also debated in Westminster Hall earlier this year, after Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine called for a Government inquiry into current legislation.

Fiona Bruce MP highlighted that in other jurisdictions, “safeguards are often discarded” in practice, “and vulnerable and depressed people are assisted to end their lives”.

Sir John Hayes MP emphasised that “every life has value” and said: “If there is any prospect of one vulnerable person dying as a result of this change who would not otherwise do so, it is not a chance that, as a legislator and a parliamentarian, I am prepared to take.”

In 2015 the House of Commons voted by 330 to 118 against legalising assisted suicide.

Also see:

Elderly woman

Doctors call on BMA to stay opposed to assisted suicide

Doctors call on BMA to stay opposed to assisted suicide

Assisted suicide law ‘protects vulnerable from pressure to end their lives’

Legalising assisted suicide discourages medical treatment, US report reveals

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