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The BMA remains stubbornly neutral

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1st August 2005

Many doctors have written to the British Medical Association (BMA) to complain about the change of policy on euthanasia that was voted on at the ARM in June 2005 (see the open letter to James Johnson from Dr Peter Saunders of the CMF as an example), but it is very clear that the BMA have closed ranks around Ethics chairman Michael Wilks. The official line is that a neutral position on euthanasia is now official BMA policy and cannot be changed until the next ARM in Summer 2006. We are greatly concerned that the pro-euthanasia lobby will use the BMA position as a lever in the coming parliamentary debate. The BMA position remains neutral as follows:

The BMA's current position is that it believes that the question of the criminal law in relation to assisted dying is primarily a matter for society and for Parliament. The BMA's recent annual conference voted that the BMA should not oppose legislation which alters the criminal law but should press for robust safeguards both for patients and for doctors who do not wish to be involved in such procedures.

We are very concerned that the tactics used to bring about this change of policy were highly unprofessional and undemocratic. In particular Michael Wilks used his powerful position as chairman of the annual representative meeting discussing the issue, chairman of the ethics committee giving 'expert input' and chairman of the agenda committee framing the 'on the hoof' motions for delegates to vote on in the last hour of conference, to powerful effect in bringing about the change.

There has so far been little media interest in this, although the internet journal Spiked has carried a a strong article criticising the BMA by Michael Cook, editor of Bioedge.


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