BMA takes a stand against euthanasia

The BMA will oppose any move towards legalising physician-assisted suicide and voluntary or involuntary euthanasia.

In a fierce debate at last week's annual representatives meeting (ARM), last year's 'neutral' decision that it was not for the BMA to dictate a stance, was overturned by a comfortable majority.

More than 40 delegates registered to speak on the motion which also resolved to 'insist that if euthanasia were legalised there should be a clear demarcation between those doctors who would be involved in it and those who would not'.

However, one part of the proposed motion was defeated, that the BMA should imitate the RCGP and Royal College of Physicians in balloting their members over a stance.

Baroness Professor Ilora Finlay, a consultant in palliative care who voted against Lord Joffe's assisted dying bill in the House of Lords recently (GP, 19 May), addressed conference in favour of the motion.

She said that doctors could not be certain in every prognosis and 'we do not make general law to accommodate certain cases'.

She added that 'the personal autonomy of one person cannot undermine the safety of another', stating that 94 per cent of palliative care doctors did not want any change in the law.

The ARM motion follows debate at the Welsh LMCs conference in March where the process of last year's ARM debate on euthanasia was heavily criticised and Dr Bill Harris of Bro Taf LMC argued that the BMA must take a stance on the issue (GP, 31 March).

GPC Wales chairman Dr Andrew Dearden said that the debate at this year's ARM was 'much much better' and the final outcome better reflected the opinions of the BMA's members.

'I also think it is right that we concentrate on the quality of treatment and what needs to be put in place rather than the alternatives,' he said.

- edward.davies@haynet.com.

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