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Calls for leading medical bodies to drop opposition to assisted dying welcomed by the BHA

An editorial in the British Medical Journal, calling for medical organisations to drop their opposition to assisted dying, has been welcomed by the British Humanist Association.

A number of organisations, including the British Medical Association (BMA) and Royal Colleges including the Royal College of General Practitioners (PDF) and the Royal College of Surgeons are officially opposed to assisted dying, whilst other medical organisations, including the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh have no position. In 2005 the BMA voted to change their position to neutral, however this decision was overturned the following year.

Commenting on the debate, BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal said:

‘An overwhelming majority of the public support legalising assisted dying for mentally competent people who are permanently and incurably suffering, within a strict legal safeguards. This is also the view of the BHA, and we think that medical organisations must open themselves up for debate on this issue.

‘There are many medical practitioners who also believe that patients’ autonomy should be respected when making end of life choices – as evidenced by the group Healthcare Professionals for Assisting Dying – and it is only right that medical organisations declare themselves neutral on this matter in order to encompass this diversity of opinion.’


For further comment or information contact or Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at or on 0773 843 5059

Read the BBC report on the editorial

Read more about the BHA’s work on Assisted Dying

The 26th report of the British Social Attitudes Survey found 71% of religious people and 92% non-religious (82% in total) believe that a doctor should be allowed to end the life of a patient with an incurable disease. 

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.

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