Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Assisted dying debate

Doctors, steer entirely clear

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 14 September 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3760
  1. Christopher J Spencer Jones, director of public health1
  1. 1NHS South Birmingham, Birmingham B13 8JL
  1. Christopher.spencer-Jones{at}

    Cumberlege urges doctors to steer clear of assisted suicide and preserve their place in society as a profession with a clear purpose: to treat, cure, and care for sick and disabled people (to which I would add “and improve the health of the population”).1

    If this is the right position for the medical profession, surely it also follows that since this position is based on professional self interest, society and the media should pay no attention whatsoever to our views on assisted suicide.

    The medical profession would do well not just to steer clear of assisted suicide but to make it clear that it is not for us to influence the opinion of society at large.

    If assisted suicide were ever to become legal then the position of the medical profession should be to have nothing to do with it. Yet that does not mean that society cannot press ahead and find another professional group to help with implementation.

    Let us not just steer clear. Let’s steer entirely clear, routinely stating that this subject is very clearly outside our remit.


    Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3760


    • Competing interests: None declared.


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