BMA guidance on assisted suicide violates human rights, barrister says

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 26 June 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e4353
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. 1BMJ

The BMA’s guidance to doctors whose patients request assisted suicide is “wrong,” and the General Medical Council’s draft guidelines on the issue would be unlawful if brought into effect, a leading health law barrister has told the High Court in London.

The BMA guidance advises doctors to “avoid all actions that might be interpreted as assisting, facilitating, or encouraging a suicide attempt” and gives examples such as advising patients on what constitutes a fatal dose or on antiemetics in relation to a planned overdose.

Philip Havers QC said that the BMA’s guidance, issued in July 2010, “discourages acts that do not, in fact, amount to an offence, acts that may be commendable and, most tellingly, acts the discouragement of which may violate the fundamental human rights of others.”

Havers is asking three senior judges to rule that the policy of the director of public prosecutions for England and Wales on prosecuting assisted suicide and …

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