Half of doctors ‘not prepared to participate’ in assisted dying

Almost 29,000 doctors and medical students answered questions about their views on physician-assisted dying.

James McKay
8 October 2020
Patient dying

The BMA remains opposed to assisted dying in all forms.

The British Medical Association (BMA) today publishes results of the biggest survey to date of UK doctors’ views on physician-assisted dying.

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Almost 29,000 doctors and medical students answered questions about their views on whether there should be changes in law that would permit doctors to either prescribe or administer life-ending drugs to eligible patients.

When asked about a change in the law to permit doctors to administer drugs to end an eligible patient’s life, over half (54%) said that they would not be willing to “actively participate in the process of administering life-ending drugs”.

On prescribing life-ending drugs to eligible patients, the survey found that only half (50%) of doctors believed there should be a change in the law to permit doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs.

The results of the survey will not determine BMA policy, which remains opposed to assisted dying in all forms.

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In contrast, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) holds a neutral stance on assisted dying since 2009.

Dr John Chisholm, BMA medical ethics committee chair, said: “Physician-assisted dying is an emotive and sensitive issue that understandably ignites a broad range of strong personal views across both the general public and the medical profession, and the results from this survey give us a valuable insight into the breadth of views held by the BMA’s membership.

“As we have made clear from the outset, these results are not intended to form but to inform BMA policy, and it is not for me, or the BMA as an association to provide an interpretation of what they mean or what should happen next at this stage.

Concluding; “these detailed findings will make for an in-depth, considered debate on the future of the BMA’s policy when our members meet at the next Annual Representative Meeting.”

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