Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Editor's Choice

Assisted dying: your vote counts

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 20 February 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m646

Rapid Response:

Re: Assisted dying: your vote counts

Dear Editor

I have watched with interest this debate in the BMJ over the years and have noticed how much your editorial position is actively supportive of assisted dying while the BMA to date (as we await the outcome of this latest vote) is actively opposed.

In spite of this your articles and presentation of the debate consistently have been strongly in favour in so many ways with no mention of the parent BMA position. Furthermore:

You have included regular advertisements from Dignity in Dying advocating a change in the law. In my opinion that would be no different to you allowing advertisements from the tobacco lobby.

You have highlighted emotive and tragic cases, but to a much lesser extent do I recall have you sought to present very much on the other side of the argument. So, for example, I do not recall any comments on facts such as:
500, 000 people die in the UK every year while only at tiny fraction of around 30-45 people feel the need to travel to Zurich for assisted suicide.

You have not explored how single tragic cases make poor laws with dangerous implications for the rest of society.

In the UK we have made enormous advances in palliative care and why the emphasis should be on ensuring better pain relief and support for all dying people.

Many disability groups are deeply concerned as to what an assisted dying bill could mean in future years once doctors are allowed to administer life ending treatment. I do not recall any serious engagement with this deeply felt concern.

The assisted dying proposal is a heavily funded by a powerful and rich lobby speaking in the name of compassion, but that does not present the issues fairly with often emotive arguments that skew the broader issues.

Finally yourselves as the BMJ do not highlight the conflict of views between yourselves and the BMA. If you can be so biased in your presentation of the issues when the BMA is actively opposed to assisted dying why have you not sort to highlight this difference at any time until it has become necessary for this vote? In my opinion this at best misleading and irresponsible on your part.

It will not be a surprise to you that for these and many other reasons I would be actively opposed to the BMA changing its position.

Competing interests: No competing interests

24 February 2020
Sunil Raheja
Consultant Psychiatrist in Intellectual Disabilities
Hounslow and Richmond Community Health Care