A recent poll of UK doctors found that a strong majority opposes a change in the law to legalize physician-assisted suicide, while only 19 percent said that they would be willing to assist people in suicide or euthanize a patient.
This represents a 17-point rise in opposition to doctor-assisted death since Medix last consulted doctors on the question in 2004, when 43 percent were against a change in the law.
However, while fewer than 1 in 5 doctors said they would kill their patients if asked, almost half said that in the last six months they had at least one patient tell them they would rather die than stay alive, and 37 percent said they believe physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia is already happening in the UK.
Dr. Tony Calland, chairman of the British Medical Association's (BMA) ethics committee, said the BMA's established policy opposes any form of assisted suicide and euthanasia.
“Doctors have repeatedly expressed their opposition to assisted dying when it has been debated regularly at the BMA's annual conference that sets our policy, which since 2006 has been to oppose assisted dying in all its forms,” Calland told the Daily Mail.
Dr. Calland noted that “there have always been strongly held views on assisted dying as this is a complex, emotive issue centred upon vulnerable patients nearing the end of their lives.”
But he emphasized that, “many doctors have first-hand experience of caring for dying patients and believe that, rather than deliberately ending a patient's life, we should instead be focusing on building the very best of palliative care for those in distress.”
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, pointed out that most medical professionals and medical associations oppose the introduction of legalized patient killing.
“A recent survey of 4800 members of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) found that 36.3% supported the legalization of euthanasia and 44.8% physician-assisted suicide,” Schadenberg noted on his blog.
“Even after the Canadian media has pushed for the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide,” Schadenberg stressed, “the majority of physicians remain opposed to intentionally causing the death of their patients.”
The UK's Assisted Dying Bill, sponsored by Lord Falconer of Thoroton, which is summarized as “a Bill To enable competent adults who are terminally ill to be provided at their request with specified assistance to end their own life; and for connected purposes,” progressed through 2nd reading in the House of Lords on July 18 and is currently awaiting Committee stage scheduling.
Information on how to contact UK MPs and Lords to express concerns is available here.