British Medical Association to poll members on assisted dying

25 June, 2019

‘The Stethoscope, Peru’, by Alex Proimos. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Creative Commons license found and verified by Wikimedia Foundation on 30 May 2012, and permanent thereafter.

The British Medical Association (BMA), the trade union body representing over 150,000 doctors and 19,000 medical students across the UK, has voted to hold a ballot of its members on whether to change its assisted dying policy.

The BMA currently opposes changing the law on assisted dying which it adopted in 2005. However, this looks set to change after the BMA’s annual meeting today adopted a motion to survey its members. 

Dr Jacky Davis, the Chair of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying, who introduced the motion stated, ‘it is becoming clear that there is a wide spectrum of views in the medical profession towards supporting greater patient choice at the end of life, and the policy of medical organisations needs to reflect that. Politicians and patients want to know what doctors think on this issue and we need all views to be heard. Our patients have wanted this choice for decades and we should be pleased that doctors are prepared to engage in the debate.’

This poll follows an announcement by the Royal College of General Practitioners last week, that it will conduct its own survey of its members, and the Royal College of Physicians’ historical dropping of its opposition to assisted dying earlier this year. It has now adopted a neutral position. 

A recent poll by My Death, My Decision, a partner of Humanists UK in the Assisted Dying Coalition, showed that more than 90% of the UK public now supports assisted dying for certain groups of people, reflecting a growing trend of support for assisted dying across the board.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said: ‘We welcome the news that the British Medical Association is holding a survey of its members with a view to changing its hostile position. We believe terminally ill or incurably suffering individuals who are of sound mind should be empowered to make their own free and informed choices about their options in dying. It is only by giving them this choice that we can guarantee they have dignity, autonomy, and choice in when and how they die.’

‘The medical profession is an important ally in the campaign for dignity at the end of life and it is positive to see it responding to the changes in public opinion in this area, which is overwhelmingly supportive of assisted dying reform.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at  or phone 020 7324 3078 or 07393 344293.

Read more about Paul Lamb’s case for the right to die.

Find out more about our work on assisted dying.

Humanists UK believes that individuals who are of sound mind but who are terminally ill or incurably suffering should have a right to decide to end their life at a time and in a manner of their choosing. We recognise that any assisted dying law must contain stringent safeguards, but the international evidence from countries where assisted dying is legal shows that safeguards can be effective.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.