Posted by: Witch Doctor | October 27, 2009

A rigged vote?


So, 2005 was the year that it has been said there was some kind of rigging of a vote at the annual meeting of the British Medical Association.

The vote did not concern a trivial matter.  There is a view that it was the most significant vote in the history of the BMA.


“A 30-minute open debate on euthanasia took place on Tuesday, June 28. Most of the speakers opposed euthanasia. But in a striking departure from past procedures, no vote was taken. This was not the only departure: Liberal Democrat Evan Harris — also a member of the ethics committee — was allowed to speak, even though he was not a delegate. But the tenor of the debate confirmed what everyone knew: that British doctors are opposed to euthanasia by a margin of about 2 to 1.

Based on the issues raised in the debate, the apparatchiks of the agenda committee drafted three motions. These were voted on two days later, on Thursday, only minutes before the end of the four-day meeting. Most of the nearly 450 delegates had already left. Only 174 actually voted.

Critics of the BMA’s decision claim that there had been a gentleman’s agreement to vote first on whether the status quo should be preserved. This would almost surely have passed. Instead, the first motion put to the meeting was whether the BMA should support euthanasia. Unsurprisingly, this failed by 101 to 73. Next came a vote on whether the BMA should withdraw its long-standing opposition. This carried by a vote of 92 to 82. Whether British doctors should uphold the status quo was never voted upon at all.

In short, a rigged vote by a fraction of delegates to the annual representative meeting made what is probably the most significant decision in the BMA’s history.

Doctors who oppose euthanasia have every right to feel outraged and to demand a referendum of all members on this vital issue. Controlling an agenda, breaking unwritten agreements and manipulating a quorum have been standard fare in shady trade union ballots. But it beggars belief that professors of ethics should use these Leninist tactics to engineer a change in the BMA’s euthanasia policy and very soon, perhaps, a change in the law. It is a chilling start to Britain’s debate on Lord Joffe’s Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill.”


Now, those who do not attend national medical meetings may not be aware that the audience dwindles substantially on the last hours of the last day of any meeting. Always. This is because delegates have come from far and wide and have planes and trains to catch or a long drive ahead of them. Every delegate knows this, every speaker knows this and every organiser knows this.

Everyone knows.

So, this vote was taken at a time that it was known there would have been many vacant seats.

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