Majority of UK physicians support medical aid-in-dying: 4 takeaways

As physicians debate medical aid-in-dying, a series of articles published in The BMJ indicates most UK physicians support legislation for assisted dying.

Here are four takeaways from the discussion.

1. A recent survey indicated most UK physicians support legislation for assisted dying, while a 2015 poll showed approximately 80 percent of the UK public support legalizing the practice, noted Dr. Jacky Davis, a consultant radiologist at London-based Whittington Hospital. 

2. However, the British Medical Association, which represents UK physicians, has long opposed medical aid-in-dying, despite calls for the association to take a neutral position. Dr. Davis, who is also a member of BMA Council, argues the current disconnect between BMA policy and the views of physicians and patients "undermines the BMA's credibility, and its continuing opposition excludes it from the public debate."

3. Bobbie Farsides, PhD, professor of clinical and biomedical ethics at the University of Sussex in the UK, argues palliative care and medical aid-in-dying are not mutually exclusive, noting a significant debate taking place in wider society. "Patients are more aware than ever of what is, and is not, possible for them as they approach the end of their lives, and practitioners need to be prepared and able to respond compassionately."

4. As opposed to fighting against a future where dying patients could get medical help in ending their life, Dr. Farsides said health professionals must work to "think about how they would negotiate such a future in the the best interests of their patients."

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