Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Assisted dying debate

Call for an evidence based debate on assisted dying

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 05 July 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d4222
  1. Joe Collier, acting chair1
  2. On behalf of the steering committee of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying: Iain Chalmers, Harriet Copperman, Terence English, David Goldberg, Isky Gordon, Philip Graham, Evan Harris, Karen Sanders, Ray Tallis, Peter Townsend, Charles Warlow, Graham Winyard
  1. 1Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying
  1. office{at}

As members of the steering committee of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying, founded by Ann McPherson,1 we welcome both O’Neill’s and Terry Pratchett’s contributions to the assisted dying debate.2 We believe that an honest and open exploration of the issues surrounding assisted dying is crucial.

We were therefore dismayed by the motion proposed by Yorkshire Regional Council at the BMA annual representatives meeting that criticised the current editorial position of the BMJ on assisted dying We also noted the inherent contradiction in the motion, which attacked the Commission on Assisted Dying, chaired by Lord Falconer, calling on the meeting to “support the BMA’s stance in not giving evidence” to the commission while at the same time calling on the BMA Ethics Committee to make the association’s opposition clear to the commission.

The media, including the BMJ, should question the proposals of those who seek change. But surely the validity of the arguments of those who seek to defend the status quo should also be questioned? As advocates of change, we accept with good grace the editorial hostility of some sections of the media, but we welcome the fact that publications such as the BMJ and organisations such as the BBC are able to present both sides of the argument.

Assisted dying is a serious issue, on which people hold strong opinions. But can we not strive to have a respectful debate in which we accept that views are divided within the healthcare professions? We therefore repeat our call for the professional bodies to remain neutral on the issue of assisted dying and for an evidence based debate in which both sides are held to account.


Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d4222


  • Competing interests: As members of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying we are supportive of a change in the law on assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults, within up-front safeguards.

  • Editor’s note: The motion was passed in all its parts (Hawkes N. Doctors back BMA’s refusal to join debate on assisted dying. BMJ 2011;343:d4188).


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