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RCGP remains opposed to law change on assisted dying

By Dermot - 21st Feb 2020

A blue stethoscope is a medical book

The RCGP, the professional body for GPs in the UK, will continue to oppose a change in the law on assisted dying, following a consultation of its members. The decision was ratified by the RCGP’s governing Council today.

Assisted death is illegal in both the UK and Ireland.

The member survey was conducted independently by Savanta ComRes. Some 6,674 members from across the UK responded to the online survey (representing 13.47 per cent of those consulted).

Members were asked whether RCGP should change its current position of opposing a change in the law on assisted dying:

  • 47 per cent of respondents said that the RCGP should oppose a change in the law on assisted dying;
  • 40 per cent 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 per cent of respondents said that the RCGP should have a neutral position and;
  • 2 per cent of respondents abstained from answering.

The RCGP Council agreed today that the survey results did not support a change in the College`s existing position on assisted dying. The College last reviewed its position on assisted dying in 2014 following a member consultation in 2013. The RCGP Council has decided it will not review the College`s position on this issue for at least five years, unless there are significant developments.

The College’s Chair, Prof Martin Marshall, commented: “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.”

The consultation was sent to 49,539 RCGP members and was in field from 29 October-15 December 2019. The survey captured responses from a spectrum of RCGP members, with a response rate of 13.47 per cent, which was “broadly in line with the industry average for this type of survey”.

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