BMA Publishes Results of Largest Survey of Doctors’ Views on Assisted Dying

Dawn O'Shea

October 09, 2020

The BMA has published results of the biggest survey to date of UK doctors’ views on physician-assisted dying.

Almost 29,000 doctors and medical students answered questions about their views on whether there should be changes in the law that would permit doctors to either prescribe or administer life-ending drugs to eligible patients. They were also asked what they believed the BMA’s position on a change in the law should be.

When asked about a change in the law to permit doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs to eligible patients to self-administer to end their own life, the survey showed:

  • 40% of surveyed members said the BMA should actively support attempts to change the law. 33% favoured opposition and 21% felt the BMA should adopt a neutral position.

  • 50% personally believed that there should be a change in the law to permit doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs. 39% were opposed, with a further 11% undecided.

  • 45% were not prepared to actively participate in the process of prescribing life-ending drugs, should it be legalised. 36% said they would be prepared to actively participate, and 19% were undecided.

On a change in the law to permit doctors to administer drugs to end an eligible patient’s life, the survey found:

  • 40% of surveyed members said the BMA should actively oppose attempts to change the law, 30% favoured support, and 23% felt the BMA should adopt a neutral stance.

  • 46% personally opposed a change in the law, with a further 37% supporting the move and 17% undecided.

  • 54% said that they would not be willing to actively participate in the process of administering life-ending drugs, should it be legalised. A quarter (26%) said they would, and one in five (20%) were undecided.

Dr John Chisholm, BMA medical ethics committee chair, said: “Physician-assisted dying is an emotive and sensitive issue that understandably ignites a broad range of strong personal views across both the general public and the medical profession, and the results from this survey give us a valuable insight into the breadth of views held by the BMA’s membership."

The results of the survey will not determine BMA policy, which remains opposed to assisted dying in all forms. Rather, they will feed into a debate at next year’s Annual Representative Meeting about the BMA’s position. Unless and until a decision is made at the ARM to change its position, the BMA’s current policy will remain.

The full results are available here.

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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