angry daughter blames
A quiet revolution has happened over the summer. Through the BMA we have voted to adopt a 'neutral standpoint' over the 'assisted dying' issue. We need to be honest over what we are doing.
· Honest over the language we use: 'assisted dying' is a meaningless euphemism; it is not the dying who need assistance; they will die anyway. It is those who are not dying. Assisting the not-dying to die is killing.
· Honest about ourselves; this is not 'them', this is us. We are telling Parliament and the country that doctors are OK with euthanasia; we don't mind which way things go. We'll go with the flow.
· Honest about therapeutics. We have found death to be a useful and efficient tool in treating abortion. After
all, there are not too many failed abortions. And it can be used on a mass scale. We managed 185,000 in 2004 alone. And we have just said
we are 'neutral' about extending this 'treatment' to the living.
· Honest about the seismic shift in our ethics. For centuries the supreme value of the individual human life has been a foundation stone of our society and of medical ethics. We used to call it 'the sanctity of life'. At a stroke this has been reduced to a matter of personal conscience, with 'safeguards' for those who don't want to be involved.
· Honest about passing the buck. Our BMA resolution acknowledges that it is for society and Parliament to reform or repeal the criminal law. Yes, but we seem ready to abdicate responsibility for our own ethics. The merely legal can never dictate our professional moral code. That leads down the path to 1930s Germany, where doctors were happy to end the lives of the handicapped and those with learning difficulties.
· And honest about 'safeguards for the weak'. The weak now have the strongest safeguard imaginable: the assumption that their doctor, like all other doctors, is entirely committed to their life, and to their unhurried 'natural' death. Even the possibility of 'assisted dying' opens the door to all kinds of pressures, from within, and from relatives, real or imagined. It will banish the confidence that any dying person has a right to enjoy in their doctor.
If society and Parliament decide that 'assisted dying' and other forms of euthanasia are no longer criminal acts and are now acceptable, then let society and Parliament find and train those who will put them into practice. Being medical should disqualify any person outright from involvement in this process. Let us not only be honest but decisive and principled. As doctors we should condemn it.
Pulse's priority is accuracy. However, in the busy process
of preparing a weekly
publication mistakes can occur. When they do, our policy is
to correct them at the earliest opportunity.
· In our front-page story about GPs missing the upper immunisation target
(22 October) we ascribed a quote to Dr David Baker of Lincolnshire LMC. The opinion is actually that of Lincolnshire's other Dr David Baker who practises in Grantham and does not speak on behalf of the LMC. Apologies to both.
· No prizes for noticing that the familiar face of GPC chair Dr Hamish Meldrum appeared last week above a caption identifying Dr Roger Chapman (page 3). The opinion expressed in the caption belonged to Dr Chapman. Sorry for the mix-up.