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BMA launches first-ever survey of doctors’ views on assisted suicide

The BMA has launched a survey into members’ views on doctor-assisted dying for the first time.

The survey is aimed at informing the doctors’ representative body regarding a potential update on its stance on the topic.

Currently, the BMA’s position is to oppose all forms of physician-assisted suicide but a vote at last year’s Annual Representative Meeting instructed the BMA to launch the poll.

Should the poll back a change in stance, this year’s ARM will have to ratify any change before it takes effect.

Members will be asked:

  • whether they believe the BMA should support, oppose, or take a neutral stance on a change in the law to permit doctors to prescribe drugs for eligible patients to end their own life;
  • about a stance to a change in the law to permit doctors to administer drugs with the intention of ending an eligible patient’s life;
  • their personal opinions, the reasons behind them, and about how the BMA should respond in the event of any future proposals to change the law.

Dr John Chisholm, BMA medical ethics committee chair, 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.’

Dr Helena McKeown, BMA representative body chair, said: ‘The BMA represents doctors and medical students across the UK, and it’s imperative that the views of all of our members are heard and considered in the development of policy on this very important topic.

‘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.’