It should be remembered that the editor of the British Medical Journal [press release here] does not speak with the authority of the British Medical Association itself, but the voicing of these views, along with the BMA's shifting stance on 'assisted dying' (indicated by what happened in 2005 but reversed the next year) ) are indications of what may be to come. The key sentence in the report is surely this:
"If assisted dying was [sic] legalised, effective safeguards could not be implemented without the involvement of doctors. It is therefore appropriate for doctors to voice their views on this issue.”
The involvement of doctors in such 'procedures' would, of course, reverse an ethical tradition which is traceable to ancient Greece.
From The Telegraph:.
A bad death should be seen in the same way as a botched abortion, the editor of the British Medical Journal has warned, as she called for medical bodies to drop opposition to assisted dying.
By Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor : 14 Jun 20126
"A change in the law to allow doctors to help mentally competent adults to end their lives is 'almost inevitable', Dr Fiona Godlee said, and the medical profession should not oppose it.
A survey of GPs found almost two thirds were in favour of the British Medical Association and the Royal Colleges adopting a neutral stance to the issue.
Assisted dying is due to be debated at the BMA conference at the end of the month.
Dr Godlee said the debate on assisted dying is similar to that of abortion reform in the 1960s when the main medical professional bodies were against legalisation but concern over botched terminations eventually led to change.
She wrote: "The same is true for assisted dying: doctors hold the means but the decision rests with society and its representatives in parliament. A change in the law, with all the necessary safeguards, is an almost inevitable consequence of the societal move towards greater individual autonomy and patient choice.
"But it may take a while, and it may not happen until we properly value death as one of life’s central events and learn to see bad deaths in the same damning light as botched abortions."
Several countries including Luxembourg, Belgium and Switzerland allow assisted dying however in Britain a bill to allow assisted dying for the terminally ill was defeated in the House of Lords in 2006.
The Director of Public Prosecutions has since issued guidance saying that doctors would be prosecuted.
A poll in the journal commissioned by Dignity in Dying and the Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD), found out of 1,000 GPs, 62 per cent wanted the medical organisations to adopt a neutral position on the issue.
Raymond Tallis, Emeritus Professor of Geriatric Medicine and chairman of the HPAD’s said that opposition runs against the idea of patient centred care and the principle of "no decision about me without me."
The BMA’s main opposition to assisted dying is that it is contrary to the ethos of medicine, he wrote “yet the monstrous cruelty of walking away from a dying patient in unbearable suffering seems more obviously contrary to the ethos of medicine.”
International experience has shown that placing assisted dying within the framework of the law would increase, not threaten, patient safety and have an entirely beneficial effect on trust in doctors, he argued.
He wrote in the journal: "Given the overwhelming support for assisted dying in society as a whole — and given also that there are healthcare professionals of good will, different faiths, and expertise in palliative care, with passionate views on both sides of the debate — we believe that the proper stance of healthcare professional bodies is one of neutrality.
"Members of HPAD therefore ask the BMA and those royal colleges that have declared themselves opposed to assisted dying to reconsider their position."
The BMJ also included an article by a doctor who was unable to help her mother, herself a GP who had campaigned in favour of assisted dying, in her final days.
Tess McPherson, daughter of Ann McPherson, described “three weeks of living agony” and being “unable to help in the way that mum wanted.”
In her haunting account she said her mother who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2007 was stripped of all her dignity and wanted to be dead weeks before she finally succumbed in dreadful pain in May last year.
Her daughter wrote: "That was not what she wanted. Mum had seen this happen before and wanted it avoided for future patients and their families.
"It is simple: the law needs to change to allow terminally ill but mentally competent people the right to a more dignified death than my mum was allowed."
Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director at Care not Killing, said: "This article and poll are all part of a carefully orchestrated and well funded campaign to neutralise medical opposition to euthanasia to prepare the way for a private members bill in the Westminster parliament.
"British Parliament and the medical profession have consistently opposed the legalisation of euthanasia or assisted suicide for reasons of public safety.
"Any relaxing of the law will put pressure on vulnerable people to end their lives and this is the very last thing we need at a time of economic recession when many families are under pressure and health expenditure is being cut."
A spokesman for the BMA said: "The BMA’s current policy is firmly opposed to the legalisation of assisted dying.
"There are strongly held views within the medical profession on this complex and emotive subject. It is regularly debated at the BMA’s annual meetings.
“At the 2005 conference, the Association changed its position on assisted dying to one of neutrality.
"In the following year the BMA reversed this neutral policy and in all other instances has maintained its opposition to assisted dying.
“If assisted dying was legalised, effective safeguards could not be implemented without the involvement of doctors. It is therefore appropriate for doctors to voice their views on this issue.” [here]
[* Cranmer today has this succinct comment about the Conservative junior minister who has, on the front page of The Times newspaper - his loyalty knows no bounds - accused the Church of intolerance:
"Nicholas Le Quesne Herbert MP, Minister of State for Police and Criminal Justice, says: "I consider myself to be a Christian and I've never in my life felt more distant from the Church than I do at the moment."
Which is interesting, because His Grace considers himself to be a Conservative and he's never in his life felt more distant from the Party than he does at the moment.
And he's not alone ."]