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BMA backs refusal of right-to-die case

Doctors leaders have extended their sympathy to a man with locked-in syndrome after he lost his right-to-die case today.

But they said the high court had made the right decision in refusing Tony Nicklinson’s request to be allowed to die with medical help.

BMA medical ethics committee chair Tony Calland said the case was ‘extremely distressing and the BMA has every sympathy for Tony Nicklinson’.

But he added: ‘We believe, however, that the high court made the right decision today in this case.

‘The BMA does not believe that it would be in society’s best interests for doctors to be able to legally end a patient’s life.

‘The BMA is opposed to the legalisation of assisted dying and we are not lobbying for any change in the law in the UK.’

Pushing the boundaries

Mr Nicklinson’s case went further than previous challenges to the law on assisted suicide in England and Wales. He is so severely paralysed, after suffering a stroke, that he would be unable to take the lethal drugs himself, even if they were prepared by somebody else. Under the law, this would be considered murder.

Royal College of Physicians of London ethics committee chair John Saunders echoed the BMA’s view.

He said: ‘The Royal College of Physicians does not support a change in the law on assisted dying.'

Mr Nicklinson is considering an appeal against the judgement.

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Medical Ethics Committee

The Medical Ethics Committee debates ethical issues on the relationship between the medical profession, the public and the state.

We can also advise BMA members on ethical situations they may be facing.

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Email: Arrowethics@bma.org.uk