BMA doctors argue assisted suicide is 'never justified' as they vote against euthanasia
Campaigners say current system is 'morally repugnant'Doctors decide killing of patients 'can never be justified'
16:19 GMT, 27 June 2012
Doctors have reiterated their opposition to assisted dying at the British Medical Association’s conference today.
Campaigners wanted delegates to agree to take a neutral stance on the issue, but members of the BMA voted against this proposal. One delegate argued that killing patients was 'never justified' likening it to murder.
The Healthcare Professionals for
Assisted Dying (HPAD) had called for the BMA to move its position from
opposition to 'studied' neutrality.
chairman Professor Raymond Tallis presented the motion at the
conference, saying that assisted dying should be a matter for society as
a whole and not just for the medical profession.
Locked-in syndrome patient Tony Nicklinson was left completely paralysed after a stroke seven years ago. He has campaigned for the right to die via assisted suicide
He also called on the union to adopt a neutral position on change in the law, saying the current system was 'morally repugnant'.
'Those of you who argue that palliative care can address all the problems of all patients are simply ignoring clinical reality,' he said.
'A reality in which some patients seeking an end to their terrible suffering resort to death from dehydration and starvation, botched suicides or dreadful journeys to die abroad.
'Neutrality is appropriate because the medical profession itself is divided.
'The BMA should adopt a position, not of opposition or indeed of support, but of studied neutrality towards a change of law to permit assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults.'
However, doctors speaking at the conference cautioned that a change in position would send out the wrong message.
In rebuttal, Dr Dai Samuel said: 'We must question what as doctors we stand for. I simply stand for looking after my patients and providing high quality care.
'I do not consider the killing of patients – whatever the reason is – justified. That is murder and I cannot commit that offence.'
BMA's outgoing chairman of council Dr Hamish Meldrum urged doctors not to take a neutral stance.
He said: 'The first part of this motion says that this is a matter for society and not for the medical profession.
'The medical profession is not only part of society, but it would be members of the medical profession that would have to carry out the wishes of society were there to be a change in the law.
'On (the second part of the motion) it says the BMA should adopt a neutral position on a change in the law.
'I think adopting a neutral position is probably the worst of all options. Neutrality does tend to exclude us from the argument, an argument which would have a huge bearing on the working lives of doctors.
'I don't come to this from any strong religious view but I do come to these views from having worked as a doctors for 40 years – mostly in general practice – where I have always felt I have been able, in almost every occasion, to support my patients when they were dying without having to actively end their lives.'
Campaign group Care Not Killing welcomed the decision.
Spokesman Dr Peter Saunders said: 'Majority medical opinion remains opposed to assisted dying and this vote is a victory for common sense.
'We hope that the BMA will now continue its valuable work in campaigning for high quality compassionate care for patients at the end of life.'