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RCGP to poll members on assisted suicide

more: Articles, Medical Opinion, Articles/Medical Opinion

24th June 2019

Family doctors' Royal College to join the RCP in polling members in 2019

RCGP to poll members on assisted suicide

The announcement from the Royal College of General Practitioners on Saturday 22 June that it would 'consult its 53,000 members as to what its stance should be on whether there should be a change in the law on assisted dying' had been expected. The RCGP last consulted its then 49,000 members across five months in 2013 (read our commentary from the time, including why GPs should stay opposed), announcing in February 2014 that it would stay opposed after 77% of individual respondents favoured continued opposition, as did majorities in 20 of the 28 RCGP bodies that took part in the consultation.

Reasons given for opposition included:

  • the doctor-patient relationship
  • the risk to vulnerable groups
  • the inability to exclude coercion
  • the effect on palliative care
  • instigating a 'slippery slope'
  • the 'too high' possibility of a wrong decision being made

The College noted then that 'the GP-patient relationship, with GPs often attending patients in the final days and hours of their lives, means that GPs would be one of the professional groups most affected by any change in the law on assisted dying.'

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, whose present term as Chair of the RCGP ends in November, said:

'RCGP Council has decided that the time is right to conduct this consultation, and we will be issuing further details of how we will do this in due course.'

Professor Raymond Tallis, a past Chair of 'Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying', Dignity in Dying's medical arm, wrote in 2012:

'I believe that we shall bring these bodies round to an appropriate stance of neutrality and that, with this obstacle out of the way, parliament may indeed come to support legislation in favour of assisted dying.'

Doctors: an obstacle to be got out of the way.

© Image copyright of RCGP Junior International Committee and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

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