The RCGP will continue its opposition to a change in law on assisted dying following a consultation of its members, it has announced.
The college has been opposed to a change in law to allow assisted dying, but it ran a consultation of members last summer to gauge whether it should take a neutral stance.
The decision comes after a Pulse GP survey last year showed that more than two-thirds of GPs were supportive of a change in stance. However, 77% of the 1,700 RCGP members responding to its consultation said the college should maintain its opposition.
The latest debate was sparked by Lord Charles Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill, tabled last May, as well as an opinion piece from former RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada in the British Journal of General Practice last year, in which she suggested GPs should ‘let society decide’.
The BMA continues to oppose legalising assisted dying and recently announced its opposition to a parliamentary bill on legalising assisted death introduced in Scotland.
The college said that the responses to the consultation had focused on: the detrimental effect it would have on the doctor-patient relationship; the risk to the most vulnerable groups in society; the possibility that patients may be in some way coerced into the decision to die; the shift of focus away from investing in palliative care; and would 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’.
RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker 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.’
In an interview with Pulse last autumn, Lord Falconer made a plea to the RCGP to take a neutral stance on the issue.