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Royal College of Physicians drops opposition to assisted dying

May 2019

The Royal College of Physicians has adopted a ‘neutral’ position on assisted dying, after a highly controversial ‘sham’ poll of its members.

The college surveyed its 36,000 members about whether the law should be changed to permit doctor-assisted dying.

It found 43.4 per cent of respondents were opposed to a change in the law, little different to a finding of 44.4 per cent when the poll was conducted in 2014.

The number wanting the college to support assisted dying increased from 24.6 per cent to 31.6 per cent.

Just 25 per cent thought the RCP stance should be neutral, a fall from 31 per cent when the members were last polled.

But the college had controversially said it would adopt a ‘neutral’ policy unless 60 per cent or more of its members were against doctor-assisted dying.

John Saunders, former chairman of the college’s ethics committee, called the survey a ‘sham poll’ that framed the survey in order to shift the position of the college.

Doctors David Randall, Dermot Kearney, Kathryn Myers and Adrian Treloar said, ‘Sick and vulnerable people are at risk as a result of College neutrality on assisted suicide. The profession has not moved on this issue, so neither should the College.’