Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews From the Frontline

Assisted dying: are doctors in denial?

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 22 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3891
  1. Des Spence, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. destwo{at}

Every aspect of what doctors do has an ethical dimension, generating real angst and anger. The BMA currently opposes doctors’ involvement in assisted dying, but is this the right position?

The case against is very strong. Our professional duty is to preserve life; physician assisted dying would compromise our position in society and runs against our ethical duty. There are impassable religious objections focused on the sanctity of life and against doctors “playing god.” There are wider concerns: patients might be pressured by their families to end their life. Disability groups fear that society’s most vulnerable …

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