This is a good and important development in the assisted suicide debate in the UK. A bill was proposed to stop suicide predators on the Internet. Predictably, assisted suicide advocates have attempted to amend the bill to legalize suicide tourism, that is, relatives taking suicidal loved ones to Switzerland (or anywhere else it is legal) for an assisted suicide. If that were done, of course, the next step would be to say: “Why shouldn’t the suicidal be able to receive assisted suicide at home?”
Physicians of the BMA have now voted against this scheme. From the story:
Doctors today rejected calls to exempt from criminal prosecution relatives and friends who accompany sick or terminally ill patients to assisted suicide clinics. The decision by the British Medical Association to oppose any change in the law is likely to have a significant influence on a similar motion being introduced by Lord Falconer in a House of Lords debate next week.
By a narrow margin – 52% to 44% – BMA members at their annual conference voted down proposals for lifting the threat of police investigations into those accompanying “a patient at an assisted death”. Doctors turned down, by a larger margin, another motion calling for legislation to allow patients who are “terminally ill and have mental capacity” to choose an assisted death. The BMA has switched position on assisted deaths several times but has supported the current legal status since 2006. [Me: Actually, the leadership tried to go “neutral” a few years go, only to be overturned by a vote of the general membership.]
Assisted suicide interferes with legitimate medical treatment and suicide prevention–whether committed at home or abroad. For example, a crucial component of hospice is suicide prevention for patients who wish to kill themselves, which often helps ameliorate the problem that caused the suicide ideation. Assisted suicide interferes with this vital service by both validating suicide and omitting the prevention aspect of hospice from being delivered. Ditto, obviously, suicide tourism to Switzerland, where many non terminally ill and despairing people have gone to kill themselves, a country, not coincidentally, with a supreme court that created a constitutional right to assisted suicide for the mentally ill.
Good for the BMA. They have preformed an important protective service for their patients–present and future.