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Christian Medical Fellowship Welcomes Debate on Proposed Changes to Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide Law

The Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) has welcomed the decision of the British Medical Association (BMA) to debate the significant problems associated with changing the law on euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS) at its annual conference this September.

CMF’s CEO, Dr Mark Pickering, commented: “We welcome the decision by the BMA to extend the EAS debate to include a detailed discussion on how they can ‘best represent our members’ professional interests and concerns in the event of future legislative proposals’.

There are very significant problems associated with changing the law. This is a recognition of the clear divide in medical opinion, between practising and non-practising doctors; and between doctors who work closely with dying people and those who do not.

“The 2020 BMA members’ survey found that doctors at the coal face of caring for the elderly and terminally ill, who work in Palliative Care, Geriatric Medicine and General Practice are more likely to oppose assisted suicide and euthanasia, whereas retired doctors, and students who have never practised medicine, remain the most supportive. Indeed, 70 per cent of Palliative Care doctors opposed the BMA supporting a change in the law to allow physician assisted suicide and 44 per cent of geriatricians were opposed to the BMA supporting assisted suicide, while just one in four (27 per cent) were in favour.”

Dr Pickering continued: “This is an issue that would have profound effects on doctor patient relationships. Simply being ‘opposed’ or ‘neutral’ does not do justice to the complexity of the issues. ‘Neutrality’ is a favoured position of EAS campaigners, as this can then be presented to lawmakers as support for law change.

“We only have to look at Canada, which legalised EAS in 2015, to see what can happen. The Canadian Medical Association went neutral on EAS in 2014, and this was a crucial step in facilitating law change. This law, coming into force in 2016, was originally limited to those with a foreseeable death. Yet by 2020, deaths had risen to 7,595, including 1,412 who cited loneliness as a reason for opting to be killed, no doubt compounded by Covid.

“In September 2019, the Quebec Superior Court struck down the requirement that a natural death must be ‘reasonably foreseeable’. This rapid extension of Canadian law to those with chronic disease and disability shows the fallacy of trusting in proposed legal safeguards in the UK.

Dr Pickering concluded: “No wonder the World Medical Association (WMA) reiterated its opposition to euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in 2019, adding, ‘No physician should be forced to participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide, nor should any physician be obliged to make referral decisions to this end…’.

“Our current laws protect vulnerable people and do not need changing, instead we need to refocus our attention on how to ensure we provide the very best palliative care to those who need it.”

More information can be found on the website.