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Sat, 24 October 2020

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Royal College of GPs’ assisted dying survey reveals even greater shift in opinion, after Council petitioned to release weighted results

Dignity in Dying

3 min read

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has released the full, weighted results of its 2019 membership survey on assisted dying, revealing an even greater shift in opinion from its 2013 poll.

This follows successful petitioning from over 5000 doctors, patients and concerned citizens who were dismayed at the College’s lack of transparency and its decision to maintain opposition to assisted dying against the will of its members.

The RCGP announced on 21 February 2020 that it would remain opposed to a change in the law on assisted dying, despite a majority of survey respondents disagreeing with this position, and without its Council making public the full, weighted results for all questions. The decision prompted an outcry from GPs across the country, including Professor Aneez Esmail and Professor Sir Sam Everington.

The full, weighted results of the survey, conducted between 29 October and 15 December 2019, have now been released:
What position should the RCGP take in relation to a change in the law on assisted dying (%):

 

Oppose

Support

Neutral

Abstain

2019 (weighted)

46

41

10

2

2019 (unweighted)

47

40

11

2

2013

77

5

18

N/A

This comes as the Royal College of Physicians reaffirms its neutrality on assisted dying, having dropped its longstanding opposition last March following a membership survey.

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said:

“The release of the full, weighted results of the RCGP’s assisted dying survey is a victory for the 5,173 doctors, patients and concerned citizens who wrote to the Council over recent weeks, appalled at its blatant disregard for the will of its members and its unacceptable lack of transparency.

“These results reveal that opposition has dropped lower and support has risen higher since 2013 than previously thought. It is not clear if the weighted data was presented to Council ahead of the vote on the College’s position. If not, this raises serious questions about the validity of the decision to remain opposed to law change. A majority of members voted for a change in position, and they now have a right to know why their College’s Council felt it was appropriate to override the results of the survey.

“Measuring a potential change in views was one of the stated reasons for conducting this poll, however the RCGP’s original press release from February has been recently edited to indicate that a comparison with the 2013 survey cannot be made (on the basis of differing methodologies). It seems the rules have been changed retrospectively to suit the will of Council, with the membership disregarded once again.

“The Royal College of Physicians, however, has recently restated its neutrality on assisted dying - an eminently sensible position reflecting the range of views among members, arrived at through transparent, democratic means. The anti-choice lobby, which has for the past year unsuccessfully attempted to silence the RCP over its decision, is now changing the definition of neutrality to suit its own aims, falsely claiming that the RCP’s latest statement is akin to opposition.

“At a timewhen doctors are grappling with an unprecedented health crisis, this blatant spreading of misinformation and bullying of a medical college is truly appalling. We hope the British Medical Association will also resist these thinly veiled attempts to thwart open, honest dialogue on assisted dying when it releases the results of its own survey later this year.”

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