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Just 7% of British public agree with BMA’s opposition to assisted dying

Just 7% of British public agree with BMA’s opposition to assisted dying
New polling reveals 84% of people believe its position should change

Figures released today reveal that just 7% of the public agree with the British Medical Association’s (BMA) current opposition to assisted dying, with 84% of people believing its position should change.

The poll, conducted by YouGov, also found that a third of people (32%) think that the BMA’s opposition to assisted dying will damage the relationship terminally ill people have with their doctors. A potential negative impact on the doctor-patient relationship is a key claim made by the BMA to justify their longstanding opposition to assisted dying.

The BMA (the trade union and professional body for 170,000 doctors in the UK) has been officially opposed to assisted dying since 2006, despite never having directly surveyed its members about their views on this issue. The polling found that 58% of people believe that the public debate on assisted dying would be better informed if the BMA were to do so.
A debate on assisted dying and end-of-life care is due to take place at the BMA’s annual meeting in Belfast. However, a motion has been proposed to prevent any debate of the BMA’s position on assisted dying taking place at the meeting.

In response Dignity in Dying is calling on its supporters to sign a petition urging the BMA to have a full and informed debate, survey their members and drop their opposition to assisted dying in favour of neutrality.

Professor Wendy Savage, BMA Council Member (elect), said:

“This new polling shows how out of touch the BMA opposition is with the British public, only 7% of whom agree with them. Sensibly the public believe the BMA should survey its members to find out what they think so that it can better represent their views.

“The BMA has an opportunity to do so at its upcoming annual meeting and I hope they take it. We are here to serve our patients, who the BMA should not ignore, nor should the BMA claim to speak on behalf of their members who they’ve never surveyed.”

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, added:

“The BMA’s opposition to assisted dying is stifling public debate and is failing to respond to public concern about dying. We urge the BMA to take note of the 84% of the British public who want them to change their stance on assisted dying and the 58% who think debate would be better informed if they surveyed their members. To not do so would be arrogant in the extreme.

“Dying people continue to be forced to take matters into their own hands – more than one Briton a fortnight travels abroad to die and a further 300 terminally ill people take their own lives behind closed doors. The BMA should stop ignoring dying people, the wider British public and its members on this issue.”


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Notes to Editor

  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,764 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th – 20th May 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
  • The BMA Annual Representative Meeting is due to take place in Belfast between 20th and 23rd June. A debate on the BMA End of Life Care and Physician Assisted Dying project on 22nd June. A motion that would stop any debate on the BMA’s position of assisted dying at the meeting is due to be voted on Tuesday 21st. The agenda for the ARM is available here.
  • A poll of 1000 GPs in England and Wales commissioned by Dignity in Dying and conducted by medeConnect in May 2015 showed that doctors are split on this issue. It found that 34% of GPs are supportive of a change in the law on assisted dying and 20% are neutral, and that 56% of GPs think that representative bodies such as the BMA should adopt a neutral position on assisted dying.
  • Dignity in Dying campaigns for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life. It advocates providing terminally ill adults with the option of an assisted death, within strict legal safeguards, and for universal access to high quality end-of-life care.