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GP opposition to assisted dying plummets but Royal College of GPs remains opposed

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive | Dignity in Dying

3 min read Member content

Dignity in Dying responds to RCGP survey results out today which reveal GPs’ opposition to change in law on assisted dying has plummeted whilst support has risen emphatically, but College resists shift in stance.


The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has today (Friday 21 February 2020) announced that it will maintain its opposition to a change in the law on assisted dying following a membership survey, the results of which are below, alongside the results of its previous poll.

What position should the RCGP take in relation to a change in the law on assisted dying (%):

 

Oppose

Support

Neutral

Abstain

2019

47

40

11

2

2013

77

5

18

N/A

Responding to the RCGP’s announcement, Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said:

“This poll reveals an emphatic shift in views from 2013, with over half of GPs voting for the RCGP to drop its opposition to assisted dying. For the College to wilfully ignore these results raises serious questions about its credibility as a representative body. Why bother asking members for their views if they are then completely disregarded? This regressive decision also abandons patients, the vast majority of whom want to see a change in our cruel, outdated assisted dying laws.

“Parliament should take note of this dramatic shift in medical opinion: the proportion who feel the RCGP should oppose a change in the law has plummeted from 77% to less than half, and those who want the College to support change has increased eight-fold to 40%. The Royal College of Physicians’ (RCP) survey last year also demonstrated that there is now a wide spectrum of views in the medical profession towards supporting greater patient choice at the end of life, and the policies of medical organisations need to reflect that.

“The RCP sensibly and pragmatically took the decision to drop their longstanding opposition in favour of neutrality, and there is no reason why the RCGP should not follow suit. They would join the Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Nursing Scotland, Royal Society of Medicine, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Royal College of Radiologists, Royal College of Anaesthetists and medical organisations around the world which contribute constructively to the assisted dying debate without campaigning for or against law change.

“What must remain central in this debate are the voices of those who are most affected by the UK’s blanket ban on assisted dying: terminally ill people who are denied a meaningful say over their death, and their loved ones who must choose between watching them suffer or breaking the law. As the British Medical Association currently asks their own members for their views for the very first time, we hope doctors consider their patients, and the 84% of the public who want to see our cruel, outdated laws changed.”

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