Royal College of Physicians adopts neutral position on assisted dying

By agency reporter
March 22, 2019

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has adopted a neutral position on assisted dying following a survey of its UK fellows and members, reflecting their range of views.

Of the three options, 43.4 per cent of respondents thought the RCP should be opposed to a change in the law on assisted dying, compared to 44.4 per cent when the survey was last conducted in 2014. The percentage wanting the RCP to support a change in the law increased to 31.6 per cent from 24.6 per cent, and 25 per cent thought the RCP should be neutral.

Neutrality reflects the decision taken ahead of the survey by the RCP's Council, its main professional decision-making body, to require a supermajority of 60 per cent for a position either supporting or opposing a change in the law. Neutrality also reflects the lack of a simple majority for any particular view.

The online survey, carried out between 5 February and 1 March, also asked fellows and members whether they personally support a change in the law on assisted dying. Those supporting such a change increased to 40.5 per cent from 32.3 per cent, while those opposing it fell from 57.5 per cent to 49.1 per cent. The survey was completed by 6,885 respondents from more than 30 specialties.

The percentage of fellows and members saying that if the law changed they would be prepared to participate in assisted dying increased from 21.4 per cent to 24.6 per cent, while the percentage saying no to this fell by a similar amount, from 58.4 per cent to 55.1per cent.

RCP president Professor Andrew Goddard said: "It is clear that there is a range of views on assisted dying in medicine, just as there is in society. We have been open from the start of this process that adopting a neutral position will mean that we can reflect the differing opinions among our membership. Neutral means the RCP neither supports nor opposes a change in the law and we won't be focusing on assisted dying in our work. Instead, we will continue championing high-quality palliative care services."

* The Royal College of Physicians https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/

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