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Doctors urged to participate in BMA poll on assisted dying

Humanists UK member and paralysis suffer Paul Lamb, who has campaigned for the right to die for many years

Humanists UK has urged its members and supporters to ask their GPs or friends and family in the medical profession to support compassionate, safe, and legal assisted dying by voting in support of assisted dying in the British Medical Association’s (BMA) survey on the topic – which closes on 27 February.

Although the BMA has previously adopted a neutral stance on assisted dying, in 2006 they changed this position and became opposed. The trade union, which represents some 160,000 of the UK’s medical professionals, has now launched its first-ever membership-wide consultation on the topic which will feed into a debate at its Annual Representative Meeting in June, where a final decision on the medical body’s position on the topic will be reached.

In its survey, the BMA asks doctors whether it should actively support, oppose, or take a neutral stance on assisted dying for adults of sound mind, who are either terminally ill or incurably suffering – which would include permitting it for individuals like Paul Lamb, who Humanists UK is currently supporting to bring a legal case challenging the prohibitive law in England and Wales.

It also asks what position members think the BMA should take in regard to doctors administering legal substances (often known as voluntary-active-euthanasia).

To help ensure adults of sound mind, who are either terminally ill or incurably suffering, can die with dignity, Humanists UK is asking its members and supporters to write to their GPs or any doctors they know and ask them to support a change in the law on assisted dying. 

Humanists UK particularly is also appealing to sympathetic doctors and medical friends to vote in support of a change in policy. In some places in the survey, doctors are able to share their opinion on how the law should change. Humanists UK has prepared the following extra supporting information which can be used as part of a response.

  • The right to determine the manner and timing of one’s death is a fundamental human right, and should be available for everyone who is of sound mind and either terminally ill or incurably suffering.
  • It is vital that all human beings are able to live their lives while maintaining their dignity, autonomy, and choice, and that is only possible if the law is changed.
  • More than one person a week in the UK travels to Switzerland to end their life. This is double what the number was five years ago, and is despite the best efforts of palliative care.
  • Public opinion is now at a record high and more than 90% of the public support a change in the law.
  • More countries than ever, including Canada, have now legalised assisted dying and demonstrated the best way to protect patients, their families, and doctors through a robust and open system of safeguards.

NOTES

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK’s Assisted Dying Campaigner at keiron@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3001.

Read more about Paul Lamb’s case for the right to die.

Read more about our work on assisted dying.

Humanists UK believes that individuals who are of sound mind but who are terminally ill or incurably suffering should have a right to decide to end their life at a time and in a manner of their choosing. We recognise that any assisted dying law must contain stringent safeguards, but the international evidence from countries where assisted dying is legal shows that safeguards can be effective.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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