Members of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) have voted to remain opposed to a change in the law on assisted suicide.
According to the governing council of the RCGP this will be its position for the next five years, unless there are ‘significant developments’ on the issue.
The announcement came following a consultation of its members, which was carried out among 6,674 GPs by pollsters Savanta ComRes.
When asked whether the RCGP should change its current position of opposing a change in the law to allow assisted dying, 47 percent of respondents said the RCGP should oppose a change in the law on assisted dying.
Some 40 percent of respondents said the RCGP should support a change in the law on assisted dying, providing there is a regulatory framework and appropriate safeguarding processes in place, while 11 percent said the college should stay neutral. Only 2 percent abstained.
Dr Mark Pickering, chief executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship, welcomed the decision. He said, ‘Those campaigning for a change in the law have pushed hard for the RCGP to go neutral, so they could have presented this to Parliament and the public as “doctors dropping their opposition”.
‘Despite variations of views among GPs, the main view is opposition to law change. Many doctors recognise the dangers of changing laws designed to protect terminally ill and disabled people from feeling pressure, real or perceived, to end their lives.’
He pointed to the experience of Canada, where doctors with conscientious objections to euthanasia are facing increasing pressure, while laws are being extended to bring more vulnerable people into this remit.
Meanwhile, in Germany, a ban on assisted suicide has been overturned by the country’s constitutional court. Felix Böllmann, a German lawyer and legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom International, called this ‘worrying’.
He said, ‘A fair and just society cares for its most vulnerable. Once we open the door to intentional killing, there is no logical stopping point. This is a worrying decision of the German Constitutional Court and clearly a big step in the wrong direction.’
While the court acknowledged the risks of abuse, it ruled an individual has a right to determine which takes precedence.
Mr Böllmann added, ‘Laws protecting the inherent dignity of every human life must be strengthened to protect the most vulnerable in our society. They deserve our utmost care and respect. This decision sends the opposite message.’