We at the British Islamic Medical Association (BIMA) recognise there are challenging dilemmas facing patients, their families, and their physicians at the end of life. However, we are opposed to the concept of assisted suicide. The recent efforts to change the Royal College of Physician’s stance from one of opposition to one of neutrality are troubling, and we are concerned about the many implications that this will have on doctors, their patients, and a relationship that has always been predicated on “first do no harm.”
As Muslims, we inherently believe in the sanctity of life. Even in the most difficult of circumstances, we feel that the focus should be on better pain relief, communities coming together and supporting the sick, investing in research for cures, and supporting our world-leading palliative care services. As God says in the Quran: “Do not kill yourselves, for verily God has been to you most merciful” (Quran 4:29). The opposition to assisted suicide is a position that has unanimous consensus from Islamic scholars and jurists across the globe.
Any shift away from the current stance of professional opposition to assisted suicide may have far-reaching consequences for patients and healthcare professionals, especially those who are opposed to it on the grounds of their faith or conscience. Questions remain as to what neutrality actually means in practice, and how patient trust in physicians who may ‘treat’ them with death will be maintained. In an increasingly austere environment, we are concerned that the narrative will paint those who are made vulnerable by ill health as burdens on their families and taxpayers, pressurising them to take this route.
For these reasons and many more, we strongly and respectfully oppose attempts by professional associations to change their current stance of opposition to assisted suicide.
It is our duty as professionals to speak in the interests of our patients, even if it goes against prevailing and evolving norms. We must continue to safeguard the interests of patients, healthcare professionals and the community as a whole. BIMA is working with an alliance of faith and civic bodies to articulate our strength of feeling on this issue, and lobby our representatives to this end.
Notes The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) recently held a poll for its 35,000 members on assisted dying. It was framed in an unusual way, requiring a supra-majority vote of 60% – an unprecedented move from the RCP Council which was a marked changed from previous polls on the issue. The RCP defines assisted dying as: “The supply by a doctor of a lethal dose of drugs to a patient who is terminally ill, meets certain criteria that will be defined by law, and who requests those drugs in order that they might be used by the person concerned to end their life.” The British Islamic Medical Association (BIMA) is the national organisation for Muslim healthcare professionals in Britain, aiming to unite and inspire members to serve patients and professions. Visit www.britishima.org for more information or see their social media channels at www.facebook.com/britishima or www.twitter.com/britishima.