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'Thousands of doctors' helping patients die

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The new head of Britain's leading assisted suicide advocacy group has claimed "thousands of doctors" are helping their patients to die every year.

Baroness Molly Meacher, the new chairwoman of Dignity in Dying, also thanked "every one of those doctors" who "risk their own freedom to help their patients" kill themselves.

In her first interview since being appointed, Baroness Meacher told The Sunday Times: "We know that thousands of doctors do help patients who are terminally ill and who are [mentally] capacitous and who want to die. Thousands of doctors every year do help those patients to die."

A study by Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, seems to back Meacher's claims estimating that around 1,000 doctors illegally helped their patients to commit suicide every year.

Elsewhere in the interview Baroness Meacher, a cross bench peer, revealed that the experiences of people close to her had motivated her to lead attempts to introduce assisted suicide legislation in Britain.

'Persistently rejected'

Baroness Meacher realises to do that she will have to convince the British Medical Association (BMA), to drop its opposition to assisted suicide.

A BMA spokeswoman said: "The issue of assisted dying has been regularly debated by the BMA at its annual policy-forming conference, with calls for a change in position persistently rejected."

Assisted suicide will be discussed at the BMA's conference later this month, and members will again have a chance to vote on the issue.

An attempt to legalise assisted suicide by Rob Marris MP was roundly rejected by the House of Commons last September, following a campaign against the Bill led by Christian Concern and other groups, but campaigners continue to attempt to liberalise the law in other ways.

Legal challenge in England

In England and Wales, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) first published an assisted suicide prosecution policy in 2010, following a Law Lords' ruling. 

The DPP claimed to have 'clarified' the policy when she made an amendment to the guidelines in October 2014, without public consultation. The change means that healthcare professionals who help someone to kill themselves are less likely to be prosecuted.

Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, disability campaigners Merv and Nikki Kenward have mounted a legal challenge to the change, which they claim constitutes "liberalisation by the back-door" and "puts vulnerable people at risk from dodgy doctors."

You can read more about the Kenward's legal challenge on their case page.

Improved end of life care

A bill to improve access to end of life care from Baroness Finlay, who is a palliative care doctor, ran out of time in the 2015/16 session of parliament. The Bill did pass through the House of Lords but MPs did not debate the Bill.

Baroness Finlay has reintroduced the Bill for this year's Parliamentary session. The Bill passed its First Reading, and is currently awaiting a date for its Second Reading.

Baroness Finlay has previously written on the immeasurable gift of life and her experience after finding herself in the difficult position of fighting assisted suicide legislation in Parliament, even as her mother told her she wanted to die.

Related Links: 
Thousands of doctors helping people die (Times £) 
Baroness Finlay: The immeasurable gift of life  
MPs overwhelmingly reject assisted suicide bill 
Disability campaigners to appeal High Court ruling on DPP's assisted suicide policy 
Access to Palliative Care Bill [HL] 2016-17 (Parliament) 


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