Intended for healthcare professionals

Views And Reviews

Assisted dying: why the BMA does not poll members on nuanced ethical questions

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 06 February 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l593

Read our collection of articles on assisted dying

  1. Anthea Mowat, chair, BMA Representative Body,
  2. John Chisholm, chair, BMA Medical Ethics Committee
  1. London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: amowat{at}

Opposition has been set through democratic and longstanding processes, and polling all members would not capture the range of feeling on such controversial matters, say Anthea Mowat and John Chisholm

The BMA has never asked its entire membership of 158 000 UK doctors for their views on physician assisted dying. Although this might sound counterintuitive, such nuanced, complex, and potentially divisive ethical issues do not lend themselves to decision making through direct polling or surveys. Instead, we have clearly defined and longstanding deliberative and democratic processes through which we typically make policy.

Apart from concerns about the accuracy of survey results and the potential for voters at either end of the spectrum of opinion to organise swing voting in their direction, to focus on whether we should poll members on assisted dying is to miss a far more important point: the professionalism and expertise that has been employed in drafting our policy on end of life care and assisted dying.1 That work spanned over two years. As well as heeding …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription