Who speaks for British doctors?

The BMJ’s one-sided coverage of a complex subject is as sad as it is predictable

Senior palliative care doctors have expressed concern in today’s Times about misleading reports in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on the subject of what is being euphemistically called ‘assisted dying’.

Writing in last Friday’s edition of the BMJ its editor in chief, Fiona Godlee. claimed that opposition to legalising ‘assisted dying’, from both the British Medical Association and from the Medical Royal Colleges, was ‘out of step’ with the views of a majority of doctors.

Today The Times has published a response from seven senior doctors who specialise in treating and caring for dying patients and who question the BMJ’s assertion.

They write:

“Sir, You write that ‘leading medical experts’ say that ‘assisted dying has more support than ever’  Just who are these ‘experts?  They are well-known campaigners for legalisation of physician-assisted suicide.  There is no ‘good evidence’, as the British Medical Journal’s editor Fiona Godlee puts it, that legalised assisted suicide is working well elsewhere.  In the few jurisdictions that have gone down the ‘assisted dying’ road, the more evidence that emerges of what is happening, the greater the concerns.  The campaigners for legalisation, who include the editorial staff of the BMJ, are unhappy that the British Medical Association, along with the medical colleges, opposes legalisation.  Most doctors have more sense than to heed these siren calls”.

The BMJ’s view of this complex subject is well-known and its one-sided coverage in the latest edition is as predictable as it is sad.  It does not speak for British doctors.  That is the role of the BMA.