The British Medical Association (BMA) has dropped resistance to assisted deaths after a landmark vote.
Members of the UK’s largest doctors ’union voted to adopt a neutral stance on assisted dying, with 49% in favor, 48% opposed and 3% abstaining.
The BMA said the decision means it will not support or oppose attempts to change the law.
However, it will not remain silent on the issue, saying it has a “responsibility to represent the interests and concerns of its members in any future legislative proposals.
In an earlier survey, 40% of members said the BMA should support calls for changes in the law regarding prescribing drugs for eligible patients to end their own lives.
Some 21% supported a neutral position and 33% wanted to oppose such changes.
Half of the nearly 30,000 members said doctors should be allowed by law to prescribe life -ending drugs, with 39% opposed and 11% undecided.
But 40% felt the BMA should resist attempts to change the law to allow doctors to administer life -ending drugs, while 30% wanted to support such a move and 23% wanted one without biased stance.
At the BMA’s annual representative meeting, some members warned that a neutral stance on assisted dying would be seen as “silence” approval of euthanasia.
Dr Gillian Wright said: “This act is really about euthanasia. The BMA defines physician -assisted dying as assisting with suicide and euthanasia.
“We know that neutrality means approval in vain and has enormous political significance.”
But Dr John Chisholm, chairman of the BMA’s medical ethics committee, told the PA news agency: “Obviously there are some doctors who think it equals tacit support. I don’t believe it.
“I believe that neutrality, which is the BMA’s policy today, allows us to continue to represent the concerns and views and interests of our members without actually taking a position for or against a proposal for change. law. “
The honor to the late chief executive Sarah Wootton welcomed the move to a neutral position, saying: “This is a historic decision and a victory for common sense.
“It brings the BMA in line with the growing number of medical bodies in the UK and around the world that truly represents the range of perspectives held by healthcare professionals on assisted dying.”
But Care Not Killing chief executive Dr Gordon Macdonald said: “We are naturally disappointed with the distinctive nature of this vote because it exposes the difference between doctors caring for patients at the end of their lives, be in hospitals or clinics, which are opposed to assisted suicide.and euthanasia and the drugs that work in unrelated disciplines such as child and child psychiatry and occupational health.
“As the BMA’s own survey found, doctors in the face of coal face the elderly and the chronically ill, working in commodity care, geriatric medicine and general practice, who continue to oppose suicide assistance. and euthanasia, because they know it’s not necessary and the subtle pressure it can put on patients to end their lives early. ”
The BMA representative also passed a motion calling for “firm rights of conscience” to be included in any future legislation regarding assisted dying in the UK.
This means that health care workers must object to participation in assisted dying.