BMA to poll members on assisted dying

MDMD is greatly encouraged in its campaign by the news that both the BMA and RCGP are to consult their members on their view of assisted dying. Precise details are yet to be announced and we will follow these developments closely.

Earlier this year the RCP poll resulted in a move from opposed to neutral, reflecting the divided views of its members. In the run up to that vote, those opposed to a change in the law mounted a very vocal opposition campaign in the hope of preventing the RCP changing its position. Their views do not represent the majority of people in the UK – the patients – who want to exercise choice over their own end of life as part of the patient-centred healthcare they expect. A MDMD poll recently demonstrated very strong support for various forms of assisted dying, including those covering people with early stage dementia and people who were incurably suffering but not expected to die within a short period of time.

In the past some doctors have expressed concern that an assisted dying law that uses a life expectancy prognosis as one of its criteria would be very hard for them to implement. Last year this concern was used by Scottish doctors to successfully argue for a broader definition of “terminal illness” in Scotland. When Canada passed its Medical Aid in Dying legislation it was limited to those whose “natural death has become reasonably foreseeable”. Both these examples show ways in which this particular medical objection can be overcome. MDMD support these moves, though we also campaign for assisted dying legislation to apply to those who are incurably suffering whether or not they are “terminally ill” – people like Paul Lamb, Omid T, Debbie Purdy and Tony Nicklinson, whose plight caused ex-Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey to change his view to support a change in the law on assisted dying.