Charities regulator set to "investigate" doctors' group over "sham" assisted suicide poll
The UK's charity regulator is set to investigate the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) 'sham' assisted suicide poll, reports The Sunday Times.
The Charity Commission has expressed 'concerns' about how the doctors' group dropped its opposition and adopted a neutral position despite just one in four of those surveyed backing the change.
Their decision to question the RCP comes after the college, which is a registered charity, adopted the new position following a controversial poll and despite the option coming last in the survey.
Asked, 'what should the RCP's position be on whether or not there should be a change in the law to permit assisted dying?' nearly 44 per cent of doctors said opposition, compared to just 25 per cent who said neutral.
A second question was even more decisive, asked 'do you support a change in the law to permit assisted dying?' nearly half of doctors, (49.1 per cent), while four in 10 (40.1 per cent) said yes and one in 10 (10.4) were unsure.
Excluding for those who were unsure, those opposing a change in the law exceeded half (54.8 per cent) of those surveyed.
Following the decision taken in March, senior doctors, including a number of former trustees, complained that the decision was taken through a 'sham poll' and complained to the Charity Commission.
In a letter dated April 23, a Charity Commission official said it was 'unclear how the decision to change the [RCP's] position to neutral was determined . . . the matter raises concerns with regard to how the charity dealt with and managed such a sensitive and high-profile subject matter.'
The Commission point out that minutes from the RCP's Council simply say that 'there was a general feeling that neutrality was a legitimate position'.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, a Charity Commission spokesperson said:
'Charities should ensure that significant decisions such as this are properly thought out.'
Dr Gordon Macdonald, Chief Executive of Care Not Killing, commented:
'The RCP is a respected doctors' group and charity, which through this privileged position has a huge impact on public policy. This is why thousands of doctors were so concerned when the Council of the RCP announced, before a single vote was cast, that it would move to a position of neutrality unless those opposing a change achieved a super-majority of 60 per cent.
'This is why we welcome the decision by The Charity Commission to investigate the RCP, which seems to have failed the reasonableness test when conducting a poll of its members."
'The vast majority of doctors, especially those working most closely with dying people, are clear that they do not want a change in the law on assisted suicide or euthanasia. They recognise the significant problems of scrapping long-held universal values which protect terminally ill, sick and disabled people from feeling pressured into ending their lives because they fear becoming a care or financial burden.
'This is why our view is clear: we as a society should be doing everything in our power to prevent suicide, not endorse and assist it. Thankfully this is a view shared by most doctors and nurses, every major disability rights organisation and a clear majority of parliamentarians in our country, who have voted against changing the law more than a dozen times since 2004.'
If the RCP is found guilty of breaking official rules, it could be reprimanded.