Assisted Dying and the BMA

BBC article here on the decision taken at the recent Bournemouth BMA conference to retain the Association’s “against” stance on assisted death.* I might write more about this soon, but for now I want to pick up on one comment made at the conference;

Prof Baroness Ilora Finlay, a cross-bench peer and professor of palliative care, said it was essential that doctors “never walk away from patients”.

I’m uncertain about the phrasing of “walk away from patients”. It’s an emotive phrase, which implies that physicians complicit in assisted death are abandoning patients, and by corollary, not acceding to something which is good for the patient. This is where I suspect the problem is: Prof Finlay seems to equate the “thing-which-is-good” with some external idea of “best interest” (i.e. life), even if this is entirely at odds with the patient’s own wishes.

That’s a viable position which people might choose to hold. I don’t – I’d prefer to see patients’ wishes being the focal point – but more on that another time. For now, I just feel that vague phraseology should be avoided, such that those who oppose assisted death are clear about their reasons and don’t (falsely) invoke imagery of physicians walking away from patients who are calling after them for help.

*Which I think is probably a better term than “assisted suicide”.

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About Jon Robinson

Lefty ex-politics student turned med student, interested in current affairs, economics, gender politics and health issues. Occasionally pretends to understand philosophy. @jon__robinson

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