Assisted suicide ruled a breach of patient trust

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DOCTORS continue to oppose assisted dying of terminally ill people – despite growing support for it among patients.

The British Medical Association yesterday refused to back calls from some doctors to change its opposition to the right to die saying it breached the trust put in them by patients.

The union’s conference heard eight in ten people in the UK are now in favour of having the right to determine if they should die if they fell terminally ill. Four in ten doctors also back the move.

However, the BMA refused to back Margo Macdonald’s End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill and its decision yesterday means it remains opposed to the Edinburgh MSP’s proposal.

But many doctors said the time had come for doctors to respect the wishes of the people they treat and let them decide if they should live.

Professor Raymond Tallis, an expert in geriatric medicine, said: “The right to have the chance to determine your own life when you are in sound mind must be sovereign.

“Instead some people are faced with having to endure botched suicide attempts and costly trips abroad to end their life. This is morally repugnant.

“The BMA is riding rough sho over the majority of the population who believe they have the right to determine if they want to live.”

However, Dr David Samuel, chair of the BMA’s junior doctor committee, said: “I don’t consider killing a patient justified. I consider that murder and cannot defend it.”

Doctors heard there had been a fourfold rise in some US states where physician-assisted suicide is legal and warned that backing the move could lead to more people wanting to take their lives.

Many doctors said ongoing improvements in palliative care meant patients had access to a wider range of treatments including pain relief.

BMA chairman Hamish Meldrum opposed the right to die saying in the 40 years he had worked, mainly as a GP, he had helped many of his patients die with dignity.