Doctors and medical students at the BMA annual representative meeting on the 14th of September passed, by a narrow majority, a motion which said: ‘In order to represent the diversity of opinion demonstrated in the survey of its membership, the BMA should move to a position of neutrality on assisted dying including physician-assisted dying.’
The motion was carried by 49 per cent of representatives, with 48 per cent against and 3 per cent abstaining.
This supersedes the association’s previous policy of opposing assisted dying, which had been in place since 2006. Being neutral means the BMA will not support or oppose a change in the law.
Separately, the BMA representative body passed another motion calling for ‘robust conscience rights’ to be included in any future legislation on assisted dying in the UK, meaning healthcare workers should be able to object conscientiously to participating in assisted dying.
The move to a position of neutrality comes after the association polled its membership on the issue last year. When asked about a change in the law to permit doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs to eligible patients, the survey found:
- 40% of surveyed members said the BMA should actively support attempts to change the law, one in three (33%) favoured opposition and one in five (21%) felt the BMA should adopt a neutral position
- Half (50%) of surveyed members personally believed that there should be a change in the law to permit doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs. 39% were opposed, with a further 11% undecided.