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Ethics – Assisted suicide voted down

August 2016

A vote by doctors against assisted suicide has been welcomed by campaign groups and charities.

In June, 198 doctors voted to maintain their opposition to assisted suicide at the British Medical Association’s (BMA) annual meeting. 115 voted in favour of a motion which called for the BMA to take a ‘neutral’ stance on the issue.

The move means the doctors’ union retains its stance of opposing assisted suicide and supporting the current law, which allows compassionate and ethical care for the dying.

Last year, MPs at Westminster and MSPs in Edinburgh voted against bills to introduce assisted suicide, despite heavy lobbying.

In response, public policy charity CARE welcomed the result of the BMA’s vote. Chief executive Nola Leach said: ‘This attempt to force the BMA into a position of neutrality on assisted suicide has failed. This was a cynical effort to try and silence a respected opponent of assisted suicide, and it is clear a move towards neutrality would have been a stepping stone towards full support for assisted suicide.

‘Adopting a neutral position on this ethically charged issue would have been highly dangerous and it would have represented a colossal failure of leadership. We believe the outcome of this debate is the right one for the most vulnerable in our society’.

Meanwhile, Ciarán Kelly, head of communications at the Christian Institute, said: ‘Every day, doctors have to provide care for patients and families dealing with the prospect of death. They know the high level of trust that their patients have in them. But a decision by the BMA to change its position would have sown doubt into the minds of vulnerable patients as to whether their doctor is always working in their best interests.

‘We should be thankful doctors refused to bow to pressure to open the door to assisted suicide’.