The British Medical Association voted overwhelmingly to reject any change in the law on euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide at its annual representative meeting on 29 June 2006. The vote followed the body's controversial move to a neutral position in 2005 and similar decisions to oppose assisted dying by both the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) in September 2005 and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) in May 2006. Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill was defeated by a 148-100 majority in the House of Lords on 12 May.
The BMA motions read as follows: that this Meeting:
- believes that the ongoing improvement in palliative care allows patients to die with dignity; 84% for, 16% against
- insists that physician-assisted suicide should not be made legal in the UK; 65% for, 35% against
- insists that voluntary euthanasia should not be made legal in the UK; 65% for, 35% against
- insists that non-voluntary euthanasia should not be made legal in the UK; 94% for, 6% against
- insists that if euthanasia were legalised there should be a clear demarcation between those doctors who would be involved in it and those who would not; 82% for, 18% against
The BMA decision brought it into line with the World Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Association for Palliative Medicine, all of which have always opposed assisted dying.
Following the vote claims were made by Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris that CMF had 'packed'the BMA meeting to unduly influence the vote, and that religious lobby groups were 'dictating policy'. But in fact, although Christian doctors had played a role in putting forward some of the 23 motions from local BMA divisions calling the BMA to oppose assisted dying, only 13 CMF members had attended the BMA ARM – 2.5% of the total 520 appointed delegates, and 5% of the doctors voting at the debate. Not one of these 13 were amongst the eight speakers who spoke in the debate.
This claim of Christian influence followed similarly wild allegations that the campaign group Care Not Killing, in which CMF plays an active role, had spent over £11.8 million opposing Lord Joffe's Bill when in fact the true figure was just over £30,000.
Christians should not feel intimidated by accusations of 'imposing our morality'. To the contrary, in a free society we have both a right and a responsibility to contribute to the democratic process in order to ensure that laws we consider both unnecessary and dangerous to vulnerable people do not enter the statute books.