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British Medical Association drops opposition to euthanasia and physician assisted suicide

At the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting in June 2005, there was an open debate on assisted dying followed by a vote on three options. These were (a) to reaffirm BMA opposition to physician assisted suicide and euthanasia; (b) to withdraw opposition to assisted dying, recognising the law is primarily a matter for society and for Parliament but press for robust safeguards if legal change occurred; (c) to support an open and transparent system that allowed terminally ill competent patients to receive assisted dying within robust safeguards. The meeting voted by a narrow margin in favour of option (b) (53% in favour, 47% against). As had previously been made clear in debate and in a briefing paper, the term “assisted dying” includes both voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide. Speakers argued that no significant distinction could be drawn between them. Therefore the BMA is now neutral on both of these issues.

Thus, the revised policy is:
“That this Meeting believes that the question of the criminal law in relation to assisted dying is primarily a matter for society and for Parliament. The BMA should not oppose legislation which alters the criminal law but should press for robust safeguards both for patients and for doctors who do not wish to be involved in such procedures.”

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