Combined Plymouth Law Society/Plymouth

                Medical  Society Debate


It was our turn to organise this annual joint meeting with the Plymouth Medical Society.  We decided to organise a debate on the topical issue of Physician Assisted Suicide, with its obvious interest to both medics and lawyers, and arrange a mixed lawyer/medic team to propose and oppose the motion “This house believes physician-assisted suicide should be decriminalised”.


It has to be said, it was a great success, with an extremely high-powered, expert, panel followed by an excellent four course meal (at least for those prescient enough to have booked early!) at the Post Graduate Medical Centre at Derriford.


We were fortunate to have the Bishop of Exeter chairing the debate; partly because he is an extremely senior churchman and an impressive speaker in his own right, but also because, as a member of the House of Lords, he had taken a close interest in the passage of the Joffey Bill on this subject last year.


We then had a lawyer and a medic on each team, for and against the Motion, each of whom adopted a completely different style, and approach, to this complex topic.  One of the medics, Margaret Branthwaite, had been involved with the Select Committee deliberations in the House of Lords and is now working with Lord Joffey on fresh proposals, likely to be introduced in due course in the Commons.  In contrast, Dr Geoff Stevenson spoken passionately against the Motion, drawing on his considerable experience as Consultant in charge of Palliative Care at St Luke’s Hospice.


The vote at the end of the debate showed 51 in favour of the Motion, 68 against, and a few abstentions.


Sadly at these occasions the medics far outweigh the lawyers, and I would encourage you to make this a priority in future years: it is always a first-class event, and well worth the effort of turning out on a Friday evening!