by Ella Pickover/The Independent

Doctors today rejected calls to take a neutral stance on assisted suicide. Medics at the British Medical Association’s (BMA) annual conference in Bournemouth reiterated their opposition to assisted dying, with one delegate likening it to murder.

Members of the BMA voted down proposals for the organisation to take a neutral stance.  Doctors speaking at the conference cautioned that a change in position would send the wrong message.

The Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD) called for the BMA to move its position from opposition to “studied” neutrality.  HPAD’s chairman Professor Raymond Tallis presented the motion at the conference, saying that assisted dying should be a matter for society as a whole and not just for the medical profession.

He also called on the union to adopt a neutral position on change in the law, saying the current system was ‘morally repugnant.’  “Those of you who argue that palliative care can address all the problems of all patients are simply ignoring clinical reality,” he said. “A reality in which some patients seeking an end to their terrible suffering resort to death from dehydration and starvation, botched suicides or dreadful journeys to die abroad.  Neutrality is appropriate because the medical profession itself is divided. The BMA should adopt a position, not of opposition or indeed of support, but of studied neutrality towards a change of law to permit assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults.”

In rebuttal, Dr Dai Samuel said: “We must question what as doctors we stand for. I simply stand for looking after my patients and providing high quality care. “I do not consider the killing of patients – whatever the reason is – justified.  That is murder and I cannot commit that offence.”

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