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Abortion and Euthanasia dominate ethics agenda at BMA annual meeting

by | Jun 7, 2012

By Dr. Peter Saunders

Editor’s note. Dr. Saunders is a former general surgeon and CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, a UK-based organization with 4,500 UK doctors and 1,000 medical students as members.

Abortion and euthanasia are to be debated at a major British Medical Association (BMA) meeting later this month.  The BMA holds its annual representative meeting, where it sets policy for the next year, in Bournemouth in the last week of June.

An almost unprecedented number of motions on abortion and euthanasia are listed on the agenda for the section on medical ethics on Wednesday 27 June.

In total 45 motions on ethics have been listed for the 95 minute session which is scheduled from 10:00am to 11:35am and no less than 33 deal with either abortion or euthanasia.

13 motions deal with abortion, with the majority either calling for women considering abortion to receive access to ‘neutral counselling’ which is ‘independent of the abortion provider’ or for abortion on the grounds of gender alone to be made illegal.

20 motions deal with euthanasia or assisted suicide with 14 supporting a relaxation of the BMA’s position and 6 supporting the status quo of opposition to a change in the law.

Nine of the 14 motions supporting relaxation call for the BMA to adopt a neutral position on ‘assisted dying’ and use almost identical wording despite coming through five different BMA divisions – Shropshire, North West Regional Council, Retired Members Forum, Islington and Suffolk.

The language of all these motions is that of the campaigning group Dignity in Dying (formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society) and without doubt they represent a carefully orchestrated ploy by the pressure group Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD), which operates under the DID umbrella, to soften up medical and public opinion in advance of a new assault on the law.

This latest move is part of a larger campaign that Dignity in Dying is running over the next month leading up to a celebrity-endorsed lobby on parliament on 4 July.

HPAD originally registered as Healthcare Professionals for Change in October 2010 but has since changed its name.

It contains a number of well-recognised campaigners for the legalisation of various forms of euthanasia, including former Liberal Democrat MP Dr. Evan Harris. Overall it has 520 supporters listed on its website.

Being a trade union, the British Medical Association is particularly susceptible to moves by small pressure groups.

Motions are always prioritised and it is therefore virtually certain that only two abortion motions and one euthanasia motion will be debated. The other 30 motions on these two issues are very unlikely to be reached.

It is interesting that whilst the two abortion motions are seeking to tighten BMA policy the one euthanasia motion is seeking to loosen it.

The BMA has supported Britain’s abortion policy, which allows over 200,000 abortions annually for many years.

But the union [the BMA] has always been opposed to any change of the law to allow euthanasia or assisted suicide apart from one year of its history (2005-2006) when it was briefly neutral.

Editor’s note. This appears on Dr. Saunders blog.

Categories: Abortion