UK doctors continue to oppose assisted suicide

Cross-posted from BioEdge 

After an extensive consultation of its members the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) in the UK will continue to oppose assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Nearly 80% of RCGP members who submitted individual responses to the consultation expressed the opinion that the College should remain opposed to a change in the law to permit assisted dying. In addition, of the 28 RCGP bodies that took part in the consultation, 20 reported a majority view against a change in the law.

Although a minority of respondents put forward cases to shift the College’s collective position to ‘neutral’ or ‘in favour’ of a change in law on assisted dying, most respondents were against a change in the law. These are a few of their reasons:

  • Change would damage the doctor-patient relationship
  • It puts the most vulnerable groups in society at risk
  • It is impossible to eliminate the possibility of coercion.
  • A change would shift the focus away from investing in palliative care and treatments for terminal illnesses
  • New laws 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.

Some doctors thought that the possibility of a wrong decision being made was too high to take the risk. The GP-patient relationship, with GPs often attending patients in the final days and hours of their lives, means that GPs would be one of the professional groups most affected by any change in the law on assisted dying.

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.”

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