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Assisted dying: Doctors could organise locally for law change while BMA refuses national poll, says US activist

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k2553 (Published 08 June 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k2553
  1. Richard Hurley
  1. The BMJ

Even where national representative bodies remain opposed to assisted dying, doctors could influence legal change through their local organisations, such as GPs’ local medical committees in the UK, a US campaigner has said.

“In Colorado individual county medical societies—for example, Boulder—began passing resolutions for neutrality or even support,” Barbara Coombs-Lee, president of the US campaign group Compassion and Choices, told The BMJ.

A position of considered neutrality among doctors’ representatives is key to enabling legislative change, she said, and to her knowledge properly conducted polls of doctors by medical societies have never found a majority opposing assisted dying.

The BMA has not polled its members to justify its continuing opposition to assisted suicide, despite recent calls for it to do so, including from The BMJ.1 The BMA’s policy2 was set in 2006 by a vote at its annual representatives meeting, which is attended by only a small proportion of its membership. A debate on the issue was held at the annual meeting in 2016 and the policy of opposition upheld.3 Commenting on the issue this …

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