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The waiting game

RCGP remains opposed to change the law on assisted dying

The RCGP will continue to oppose a change in the law on assisted dying, today’s council meeting confirmed. 

The College said 6,674 members responded to an online survey - 13.47% of all of those consulted - and the RCGP Council agreed that the results didn’t support a change in its existing position. 

Having been asked whether the college should change its current position of opposing a change in the law on assisted dying:

  • 47% of respondents said that the RCGP should oppose a change in the law on assisted dying
  • 40% of respondents said the RCGP should support a change in the law on assisted dying, providing there is a regulatory framework and appropriate safeguarding processes in place
  • 11% of respondents said that the RCGP should have a neutral position and
  • 2% of respondents abstained from answering

Prior to this, the RCGP last reviewed its position on assisted dying, which is illegal in the UK, in 2014, after a members' consultation the previous year.

The issue will now not be revisited by the Council for at least five years, unless significant developments occur in the meantime. 

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said: ‘As the UK’s largest medical royal college it is important that we engage in debate and listen to what our members have to say on wide-ranging issues affecting GPs and their patients.

‘Assisted dying is a controversial topic and this was reflected in the responses to our consultation. However, the highest proportion of respondents said that the college should continue to oppose a change in the law on assisted dying.

‘This was the largest consultation on an issue of public policy that the college has conducted both in terms of response rate and volume of respondents. The survey results have been helpful in guiding college council as to what our position should be.

‘The role of the college now is to ensure that patients receive the best possible palliative and end of life care, and to this end we are working with Marie Curie and others to support this.’

However, Dignity in Dying criticised the decision. According to chief executive Sarah Wootton, it reveals an ‘emphatic shift in views from 2013’, with ‘over half of GPs voting for the RCGP to drop its opposition to assisted dying’.

She said: ‘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.’

It means the RCGP continues to disagree with other medical bodies, including the Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Nursing and Royal Society of Medicine, which hold neutral stances on assisted dying.

Earlier this month, the BMA launched its first survey of views on doctor-assisted dying, while Professor Sir Sam Everington, chair of London’s 32 CCGs, recently took to Pulse to urge the RCGP to shift to neutrality on the topic.

Readers' comments (10)

  • It's the dawn of the cardigans.

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  • David Banner

    The RCGP putting their fingers in their ears won’t stop the increasing demands of Boomers to be allowed the dignity to determine the destiny of their own deaths.

    We (rightly) allow choice on abortion yet continue to deny terminally ill patients the right to a dignified death.

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  • Not surprising as newly qualified GPs with more progressive views leave the RCGP soon after qualifying.

    Leaving the cardigans and politicos to "represent" us.

    Wouldn't micturate on RCGP if it spontaneously immolated in front of me.

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  • The claiming of 'progressive' always makes me smile. Is it progress to euthanase a depressed older lady in a miserable nursing home because as a country we cannot provide decent living standards for our elderly? Is it progress to euthanase a teenager following a spinal spinal injury? Some would say yes. Your idea of progress is different to mine. But yes, it's just because cardigans are voting, they know nothing. Bring on the progress!!

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  • The RCGP is out of touch and unrealistic.

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  • Cobblers

    So 51% of cardies, CARDIES, voted to change the RCGP stance to neutral or change the law on assisted dying.

    That would appear to be a clear mandate for change? Did we not leave the EU on similar figures?

    The RCGP is clearly not listening to its members.

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  • Cobblers

    10:29am. This is not a Aktion T4 Gnadentod programme. Use of such shroud waving is just wrong. Whilst you may feel this is the thin end of the wedge it is not beyond the wit of man to make sure it isn't.

    I would like the freedom the determine the method and time of my own death unless big G decides he wants a role.

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  • The universe does not revolve around humans despite the strongly-held and self-serving delusion we hold that it does.

    The whole of life is riddled with "assisting", from IVF,the event of birth, the avoidance of infections through vaccinations, "fighting illness" etc and this manipulation produces new existential distinctions such as old age and infirmity in massive quantities.

    If this assistance is noble throughout life, is withholding it at the unavoidable conclusion of the process also noble?

    A neutral stance seems entirely reasonable to me.

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  • That only a tiny proportion of the RCGP membership could be bothered to reply suggests that even the members do not have much regard for the College.

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  • Most of my colleagues who are still members are only doing so because they can't be GP trainers without active membership.

    My sentiments towards RCGP are as stated above.

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