The largest survey to date of medical opinion on assisted dying is launched today – and will determine whether the medical profession remains opposed to it.
The survey will involve members of the British Medical Association, which is under pressure to drop its opposition to assisted dying.
Delegates at the BMA annual conference last year passed a motion noting that the Royal College of Physicians had recently chosen to adopt a neutral position on the issue.
BMA members are to be asked to indicate whether they want the organisation to oppose, support or take a neutral stance on legislation that would allow doctors to prescribe drugs to enable patients to end their own life. A second question will consider the issue of doctors administering life-ending drugs.
The findings of the survey will be used at a debate at the BMA conference in June – where a final decision will be taken. Last year’s resolution stated that the conference supported “patient autonomy and good quality end of life care for all patients” and recognised that “not all patient suffering can be alleviated.”
Dr John Chisholm, chair of the BMA’s medical ethics committee, said: “Physician-assisted dying is an extremely sensitive issue that understandably ignites a broad range of strong personal views across both the general public and the medical profession. Doctors and medical students have a particular interest in discussions around legislation because any change in the law would impact on them not just personally but professionally.
“Therefore, this poll will allow us to gather information about the breadth of views held by our membership, which will then inform any future policy decisions and how we respond to any proposals for a change in the law.”
Conference chair Dr Helena McKeown said: “Following an in-depth and thought-provoking debate at last year’s ARM, this survey now gives us the unique opportunity to garner the widest range of views from our members. We’re asking every member to please make the time to take part in our survey, so as to ensure we have the best debate we can in June.”