Letters: GPs must not remain neutral on subject ofassisted dying

Dear Editor

I was heartened to read about Dr Andrew Dearden, chairman of the Welsh GPC, and his call for the BMA to change its neutral stance on the assisted dying issue (GP, 19 May).

Last year's BMA policy change - to stop opposing assisted dying and instead sit on the ethical fence - was the result of strong-arm tactics by a few hard-core pro-euthanasia members who bulldozed their opinion at a barely quorate ARM meeting after a pitifully short debate two days previously.

The assisted dying debate is not one that doctors should leave to the politicians and lay public.

The politicians certainly are not sitting on the fence, given the successful wrecking motion passed against Lord Joffe's assisted dying bill on 12 May. The public is also busy campaigning: in opposition to the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, the CareNOTKilling alliance (www.carenotkilling. org.uk) has been hugely successful in combatting moves to introduce assisted dying legislation into the UK, and is also campaigning for better palliative care across the whole of the UK.

Likewise, neither individual doctors nor the BMA should be neutral on this subject. Most of the Royal Colleges, after polling their respective members, have put the BMA to shame by jumping off the fence, and clearly opposing moves to allow doctors to kill patients.

The BMA is supposed to represent the views of the majority of its members. So, let your local representative know what you think to ensure that your views are accurately represented at this June's BMA annual meeting.

Dr Rachael Pickering, West Thamesmead, London

Dear Editor

I am writing to say that I could not disagree more with Dr Andrew Dearden.

Far from being out of touch, the stance that the BMA has taken is more in step with the views of many doctors and also closer to those of the public, than his own entrenched views.

We live in the 21st century, where people are used to exercising some choice in their lives, with opportunities to do so when, for instance they plan their families.Why should those with a terminal illness be denied a choice in the timing of their death?

In my 18 years in general practice, I have seen a real need for the choice of an assisted death to be available for some patients at the end of their lives.

This is not to undermine the excellent work that can be done by well-trained medical and nursing staff in the provision of palliative care and pain relief.

It is not just the fear of pain that leads some patients to wish to bring their life to a dignified end, sometimes weeks, sometimes only days before they would otherwise die. It is their belief that what lies ahead for them is not a worthwhile ordeal; that those days/weeks of inevitable deterioration will leave a memory of them that may be an added burden to those they leave behind.

They may wish to die at a time when those they love can be with them, to say their good-byes in a calm and positive way and to then die peacefully, knowing that they have exercised some choice and control in a situation where that can be very difficult to achieve.

In my view, if there were to be a change in the law, it would not mean that every GP would inevitably be involved in assisted deaths.

It would be an available option for those that wished to request it and the numbers may well be small.

There would probably not be a need for more than one GP in a practice, or a few in each locality to be actively involved.

Where there is a moral opposition, in the same way that some doctors prefer to take a less active role in dealing with requests for termination of pregnancy, GPs would be able to act in accordance with their own beliefs, while being sensitive to their patient's requests to choose for themselves.

I remain hopeful that this necessary law change will take place eventually, preferably sooner.

Dr Naomi Ibbott, County Durham.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

GP services could be outsourced overseas under licensing changes being explored by the GMC

GP services could be outsourced overseas under licensing changes being explored by the GMC

General practice could be outsourced to digital medical services based overseas under...

London CCGs contest demands to pay for patients moving to GP at Hand

London CCGs contest demands to pay for patients moving to GP at Hand

London CCGs are contesting demands that they pay for patients who have signed up...

GP who secretly filmed CQC inspection suspended for two months

GP who secretly filmed CQC inspection suspended for two months

A single-handed GP who made covert audio and video recordings of his CQC inspection...

GMC sanction 12 times more likely for doctors who do badly in postgrad exams

GMC sanction 12 times more likely for doctors who do badly in postgrad exams

Doctors who perform poorly in postgraduate professional exams are twelve times more...

GP indemnity costs set to rise under government regulation plans

GP indemnity costs set to rise under government regulation plans

GPs could face increased costs under plans to regulate provision of medical indemnity,...

New vitamin D guidelines aim to provide clarity on testing and prescribing

New vitamin D guidelines aim to provide clarity on testing and prescribing

Dr Terry Aspray explains what the National Osteoporosis Society's new clinical guidelines...