Published: 22nd September 2005
The UK’s largest association of Christian doctors has today applauded the Royal College of General Practitioners’ (RCGP) decision to oppose euthanasia legislation and called on the BMA to reconsider its position of ‘neutrality’ in the face of this clear opposition from grassroots doctors.
CMF General Secretary Peter Saunders said, ‘Most doctors have been clear throughout regarding their opposition to the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill, and the RCGP, in contrast to the BMA, has now shown itself to be a legitimate representative body by aligning itself with the clear view of the majority of its members.’
The RCGP received 843 responses to its consultation on the views of members regarding the need for a change in the law. Proeuthanasia groups targeted the College website with their unsolicited replies but of the 380 responses clearly identified as being from faculty members and medical practitioners, 300 were against, 70 were for, and 10 responses were either incomplete or unclear. The meeting affirmed that: ‘The RCGP believes that with current improvements in palliative care, good clinical care can be provided within the existing guidelines and that patients can die with dignity. A change in legislation is not needed.’
The RCGP had adopted a neutral position on euthanasia last autumn in giving evidence to the House of Lords’ Select Committee on Lord Joffe’s Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill. However, following a barrage of complaints from frontline GPs delegates have now voted overwhelmingly in favour of opposing assisted dying legislation, a decision that brings them into line with the RCN and leaves the BMA increasingly out on a limb. The 134,000 strong BMA adopted a neutral position at its annual representative meeting in June by a 93 to 82 vote at a barely quorate meeting when less than half of delegates were present. There have been widespread protests from grassroots members ever since.
Saunders continued, ‘In a recent major poll conducted by doctors.net, a cybercommunity of over 113,000 UK doctors, 75% of those surveyed affirmed that even if the law was changed they would not participate in euthanasia. The BMA’s position of neutrality was skilfully engineered by a vocal minority who are exerting a disproportionate effect on BMA committees. It is clear that when frontline doctors have a chance to speak, they do so overwhelmingly in opposition to euthanasia. This is a strong signal to decision-makers to consult more widely and act more democratically when framing official policy.
‘Some people are welcoming euthanasia because right-to-die advocates have fed them a diet of misinformation and fear, when what they really need is to be properly informed and given hope. The vast majority of calls for euthanasia are really calls for good medical care and symptom relief. Requests for euthanasia and assisted suicide are extremely rare when a patient’s physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs are properly met. Our priority must therefore be to make the best possible whole person care more widely available.’
Saunders concluded, ‘Frontline doctors have encouraged the RCGP to think again. The BMA should take note of its members’ concerns and do likewise. Parliament and the public should not be misled by the BMA’s current neutral position.’
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 4,000 British doctor members in all branches of medicine. A registered charity, it is linked to about 65 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.
CMF exists to unite Christian doctors to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.