Re: Why neutrality on assisted dying is not an option for doctors’ professional organisations
18 July 2012
John Saunders misunderstands neutrality (Why neutrality on assisted dying is not an option for doctors’ professional organisations). A neutral stance on assisted dying would reflect the wide range of opinion among doctors on the issue. It would acknowledge and respect patients’ and healthcare professionals’ individual choices, and would not pass judgement on those patients who feel that they would or would not want the option of assisted dying.
No one would deny that medical and professional bodies are reasonably expected to “offer an overall judgment on the desirability of legislation if it affects medical practice”, as Dr Saunders advocates. What HPAD argues is that: a) such judgement should not be definitive; b) in this case, the subject of that judgement should be legislation itself and not principle – the BMA would be right to take a position on the benefits and problems of an assisted dying law, but should not oppose assisted dying in principle; and, as a corollary, c) the medical bodies would be in a better position to offer genuine judgement on the desirability of legislation if it were to take a neutral position on the principle of assisted dying.
Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying does not and will not campaign for the BMA or other representative bodies to move to a position of support for assisted dying. Neutrality is not “an achievable second best” for us – it is the best and most appropriate position for the representative bodies to take. Taking a neutral position would allow the medical organisations to promote palliative care whilst genuinely engaging with the struggles and dilemmas of those patients whose suffering cannot be alleviated by palliative care.
Competing interests: Chair of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying and previous Chair of Royal College of Physicians Committee on Ethical Issues in Medicine
Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying, 181 Oxford Street, London W1D 2JT
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