Published: 30th June 2005
The Christian Medical Fellowship has expressed deep regret that the BMA has decided to reverse its previous opposition to euthanasia and physician assisted suicide and adopt a neutral position.
Delegates at the BMA annual representative meeting in Manchester today voted 58% to 42% against legalising euthanasia but 53% to 47% in favour of adopting a neutral position. The exact working of the latter motion was as follows:
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 that alters the criminal law but should press for robust safeguards both for patients and for doctors who do not wish to be involved in any such procedures.
CMF General Secretary Dr Peter Saunders said, ‘It is desperately sad that BMA delegates have not had the wisdom and courage to maintain their opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide in the face of a strong campaign from some members of the BMA ethics committee to remove protection for vulnerable people by giving doctors the power to bring about their patients' deaths. Many BMA members will be very angry that such a major change in BMA policy has been made on such an important and controversial issue effectively on the hoof at a dubiously quorate meeting after just half an hour's debate two days previously. The BMA has in a foolish moment turned its back on both the Hippocratic Oath and the Declaration of Geneva.’
‘The majority of doctors remain firmly opposed to euthanasia, but a vocal minority in favour are currently exerting a disproportionate effect on the policy of the BMA and other official medical bodies. When the Royal Colleges of General Practitioners and Physicians took a neutral position on Lord Joffe’s Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill last autumn in evidence to a House of Lords select committee it provoked a storm of reaction from angry grass roots members. As a result the RCGP Council voted 30-14 in favour of rejecting a neutral position on euthanasia on 18 June.
Sadly the BMA has today moved in the opposite direction, sitting on the fence and washing its hands of responsibility.
Saunders concluded, ‘CMF remains opposed to the legalisation of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide on the grounds that it is unnecessary (because palliative treatments exist), dangerous (because it puts vulnerable patients at risk) and morally wrong (contrary to all historical ethical codes). We will continue to campaign against a change in the law – and to promote the best standards of palliative care.
Philippa Taylor (CMF Head of Public Policy) 020 7234 9664
Steven Fouch (CMF Head of Communications) 020 7234 9668
Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225
Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was founded in 1949 and is an interdenominational organisation with over 5,000 doctors, 900medical and nursing students and 300 nurses and midwives as members in all branches of medicine, nursing and midwifery. A registered charity, it is linked to over 100 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.
CMF exists to unite Christian healthcare professionals to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.