Published: 3rd July 2006
The BMA voted at their Annual Representatives Meeting (ARM) on 29 June this year to reverse their short-lived position of neutrality towards assisted dying, and have instead adopted a position of opposition.
This brings the BMA in line with other medical organisations; the WMA, RCP, RCGP, RCN, RCPsych and APM are all overwhelmingly opposed to euthanasia. These positions have been established by reliable polling and democratic means.
Claims have been made that the Christian Medical Fellowship 'packed' the BMA meeting to unduly influence the vote, and that religious lobby groups are 'dictating policy'. The vast majority of members of the medical organisations listed above are not Christians. Their opposition statements represent the views of a broad range of doctors that are not related to religious belief. The BMA debate and decision was taken primarily on secular not religious grounds.
CMF itself is a small organisation with 4,500 doctors and 1,000 students as members – about 2-3% of the 210,000 doctors in this country. Only 13 CMF members attended the BMA ARM – 2.5% of the total 520 appointed delegates, and 5% of the doctors voting at the debate on assisted dying. Not one of these 13 were amongst the 8 speakers who spoke in the debate on assisted dying. Even if these 13 had not voted, assisted dying would still have been rejected by at least 65 votes or by over 60%.
There are no CMF members on the BMA ethics committee and none were elected this year either. We are unaware of any CMF members who were elected onto any BMA committee at the conference. 134,000 UK doctors are members of the BMA. Assuming all CMF doctors are also BMA members, we would constitute at most 4% of BMA membership. This indicates that our presence at the BMA ARM was a fair representation of national membership.
Dignity in Dying is involved in extensive lobbying on the issue of assisted dying, yet their comments about the CMF suggest that people with views different from theirs do not have a right to lobby. In a free democratic society Christians have just as much right as anybody else to express their opinions and attempt to influence public policy – this is not imposing their views – it is simply exercising their right and responsibility to contribute to the democratic process and ensure that laws they consider both unneccesary and dangerous to vulnerable people do not enter the statute books.
Finally, the results of public opinion polls depend very much on the questions asked. This point was made by the House of Lords Select Committee looking at Joffe's Bill. In contrast to polls cited by Dignity in Dying, another recent opinion poll commissioned by Care Not Killing and published in the Sunday Telegraph on 5 May 2006 showed public anxiety about legislation allowing assisted dying - see www.carenotkilling.org.uk
Christian Medical Fellowship
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.