We welcome assisted dying review by BMA

February 6, 2020

Humanist Society Scotland has welcomed the news that the British Medical Association (BMA) has launched a survey of its members on the organisation’s approach to assisted dying. This comes as the Humanists ask the public to back its ‘Last Rights Charter’ which sets out four key rights that they believe everyone should have at the end of their life:

Commenting on the launch of the BMA survey, Chief Executive of Humanist Society Scotland, Fraser Sutherland, said:

It remains a cruel fact that many people in Scotland cannot access the full range of options that they may choose at the end of their life. It is good to see that BMA members will reconsider their opposition stance to assisted dying. I hope that BMA members will look closely at the evidence from other countries where assisted dying is available and where it is successfully regulated to ensure appropriate safeguards. This is as much a question about the right of personal bodily autonomy as it is healthcare.

Every year people choose to travel to Switzerland from Scotland to access an assisted death but this is only available to those well enough and rich enough. Scotland needs to allow the option of an assisted death for those who choose to access it as part of a collection of Last Rights.

Fraser Sutherland, Humanist Society Scotland

Humanist Society Scotland has long been an advocate for the availability of an assisted death for people who are terminally ill or intolerable suffering, including support of previous attempts to change the law in the Scottish Parliament by Margo MacDonald and Patrick Harvie.

In addition, a former Humanist Society Scotland trustee – Gordon Ross –  took a high profile legal case in order to challenge the Lord Advocates’ advice on prosecutions of cases relating to assisting a death. The annual Humanist of the Year award is named after Gordon.

The BMA will ask its members if the union should support, oppose or be neutral on a change in law to allow doctors to prescribe and/or administer drugs that would end a person’s life. The current position, adopted in 2006, is for the BMA to oppose any changes in the law. The results of this survey will be revealed before the 2020 Annual Representative Meeting in Edinburgh in June.

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