British Doctors Group No Longer Opposes Assisted Suicide

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 30, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Doctors Group No Longer Opposes Assisted Suicide Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 30, 2005

London, England ( — In a move that’s a huge victory for assisted suicide advocates, British doctors have dropped their long-standing opposition to the grisly practice. The British Medical Association announced Thursday that it now has a "neutral" stance on the issue of assisted suicide.

The doctors’ group says the legal status of assisted suicide is "primarily a matter for society and parliament."

BMA members approved a resolution saying its members should not oppose a change in British law legalizing assisted suicide but should also "press for robust safeguards both for patients and for doctors who not wish to be involved in such procedures."

Pro-life groups in Britain said the policy change doesn’t reflect the view of all doctors in the European nation.

"When the Royal College of General Practitioners took a neutral position … it provoked a storm of angry reaction from their members," Julia Millington of the ProLife Alliance told the BBC. "As a result the RCGP Council voted in favor of reinstating their opposition to euthanasia last Saturday."

Despite changing their position, doctors said they wanted safeguards in place and conscientious objection laws allowing medical personnel to opt out of involvement in killing patients.

"We need to ensure that vulnerable patients are protected, they have quality palliative care and pain relief is available," Dr. John Chisholm said of the resolution.

BMA’s head of science and ethics Dr. Vivienne Nathanson added that doctors and nurses should not be forced to participate and the elderly and infirm should not be forced to choose assisted suicide.

The new position will put renewed pressure on the British parliament to pass a law making England the next country to legalize assisted suicide and other doctors wanted the group to come out in favor of the bill.

The assisted suicide measure is expected to return to the House of Lords later this year.

Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris told the Guardian newspaper that the BMA policy change is "a massive boost" for the bill.