The British Medical Association (BMA) cannot “in good conscience”, continue to oppose assisted dying, according to consultant radiologist and BMA Council member, Jacky Davis.
In a Personal View article published in the BMJ, Dr Davis says: “The current disconnect between BMA policy and the views of doctors and patients undermines the BMA’s credibility, and its continuing opposition excludes it from the public debate.”
The article highlights the results of a survey carried out in October which showed that 55 per cent of 733 people surveyed felt that assisted dying should be made legal in defined circumstances. This builds on a 2015 medeConnect poll of 1,000 GPs which found that 56 per cent thought medical bodies such as the BMA and the Royal College of General Practitioners, should adopt a position of neutrality on assisted dying.
“This latest poll throws down the gauntlet to the BMA: if it does not accept the result, it must challenge it with its own ballot of the membership. If it accepts the result it cannot, in good conscience, continue to oppose assisted dying,” Dr Davis says.
The BMA’s stance of outright opposition to assisted dying means that constructive engagement is impossible, he writes, adding that “doctors who support legal reform - now in the majority according to the latest poll - are left without a voice”.
“Ultimately legalisation for assisted dying will be a decision for UK society. The job of the BMA will be to contribute to the debate, not find itself side-lined because of its implacable opposition. Its members, and our patients, deserve better,” he says.