Ethics briefing

Journal of Medical Ethics 47 (2):129-130 (2021)

Abstract

On 8 October 2020, the British Medical Association published the results of its survey of BMA members on physician-assisted dying. With 28 986 respondents, this was one of the largest surveys of medical opinion on this topic ever carried out. This represents 19.35% of those who received an invitation to participate and the respondents were broadly representative of the BMA’s overall membership. The BMA was clear throughout this process that the results of the survey would not determine its policy. Its current policy of opposition to all forms of physician-assisted dying would remain unless and until the Representative Body, which makes BMA policy, decided otherwise. The survey results would, however, inform a future debate on policy, currently scheduled to take place in June 2021. When asked what the BMA’s position should be on whether there should be a change in the law to allow doctors to prescribe drugs for an eligible patient to self-administer to end their own life, 40% said the BMA should be supportive, 33% opposed, 21% thought the BMA should be neutral and 6% were undecided. In relation to their own personal views, 50% were supportive, 39% opposed and 11% undecided. When asked whether they would be willing to participate in some way in the process, if it were to be legalised, 36% said yes, 45% said no and 19% were undecided. The same three questions were asked about a change in the law to allow doctors to administer drugs to end the life of an eligible patient. In response, 40% thought the BMA should oppose such a change, 30% thought the BMA should be supportive and 23% thought the BMA should be neutral; 7% of members responding were undecided on this question. In …

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