The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has announced that it will continue to oppose a change in the law on assisted suicide following a comprehensive consultation on the issue with its members, reports Christian Concern for our Nation.
More than seventy per cent of doctors who responded to the five-month consultation said they believe that the RCGP should remain opposed to the provision of assisted suicide in the UK.
Furthermore, of the 28 RCGP bodies that participated in the consultation, 20 agreed that the current law in this area should not be revised.
A Council debate on the issue ended with a resolution to “maintain the College’s position of opposition to a change in the law on assisted dying”.
The main objections expressed by respondents were that introducing assisted suicide would:
- be detrimental to the doctor-patient relationship
- put the most vulnerable groups in society at risk
- be impossible to implement without eliminating the possibility that patients might in some way be coerced into the decision to die
- shift the focus away from investing in palliative care and treatments for terminal illnesses
- instigate a ‘slippery slope’ whereby it would only be a matter of time before assisted dying was extended to those who could not consent due to reasons of incapacity and the severely disabled.
Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the RCGP, said: “This was one of the most comprehensive consultations the College has ever undertaken and the quality of the responses on this extremely important issue has been very high. GPs will continue, as they have always done, to provide excellent care to patients in the final days and hours of their lives.”
The RCGP is the UK’s largest membership organisation solely for GPs, with over 49,000 members, making it the most representative voice in the UK for GPs.
Commenting on the outcome, Dr Peter Saunders of Care Not Killing said:
"The RCGP has wisely resolved to maintain its position of opposition to a change in the law to allow assisted suicide or euthanasia recognising that any change in the law would have a huge impact on the profession.
“It is significant that this was one of the most comprehensive consultations of the RCGP membership that has ever been undertaken, with over 1,700 responses. This is a highly welcome move and will send a strong signal to legislators in a year when new bills seeking to legalise assisted suicide are being debated in both Westminster and Scotland.”
Also welcoming the decision, Andrea Williams of Christian Concern said:
“It is crucial for the medical profession to remain involved in the debate on assisted suicide to prevent the law from being swayed and influenced by a small, but vociferous lobby.
“The RCGP’s consultation exercise shows that the overwhelming majority of doctors in the UK do not support a change in the law and recognise that the provision of assisted suicide would place public safety at risk and undermine the crucial relationship of trust between doctors and patients.
“We hope that the RCGP will continue its work in pushing for high quality and compassionate care that meets the needs of patients reaching the end of their lives.”