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GPs told not to discuss assisted suicide with patients

By Gareth Iacobucci

GPs have been warned not to engage in discussions around assisted suicide with patients, despite the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) adopting a neutral position on the issue.

The Medical Defence Union (MDU), have warned doctors that they could face investigation by the GMC if they give advice to patients to help them travel abroad to take their own lives, and urged them not to discuss the issue during consultations.

The RCN's decision to switch to a neutral position following a detailed consultation, has provoked fierce debate over the issue, which has polarised opinions among clinicians and patients.

The BMA recently passed a motion opposing the legalisation of assisted suicide at its annual representatives meeting, and the RCGP is soon to publish a policy document on the issue, which is expected to oppose changes to current legislation.

Ian Barker, MDU solicitor, said: ‘As a result of the RCN stating in news reports that it wishes to ‘engage in a debate' with its nurse members about assisted suicide and the recent media interest in this issue, our members may be approached by patients for advice about ending their life with the help of an assisted suicide group abroad.

‘We are reminding them that they could face a criminal investigation if alleged to have assisted with the act - even if that assistance was in the form of advice to the patient. Even if criminal proceedings do not follow, the GMC may still decide to investigate the doctor's fitness to practise.

‘The best thing a member can do if they are asked for help in these circumstances is to phone us for specific advice and not to engage in a discussion with the

MDU: warning over talk of suicide MDU: warning over talk of suicide

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