RCP now neutral on assisted dying

THE Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has adopted a neutral position on assisted dying following a survey of its UK fellows and members.

The survey found that 43.4 per cent of respondents thought the RCP should oppose a change in the law on assisted dying compared to 31.6 per cent who believe the College should support reform. The remaining 25 per cent thought the RCP should adopt a neutral stance on the issue.

The RCP Council had decided in advance of the survey that a decision to either support or oppose a change in the law would require a supermajority of 60 per cent and a neutral stance would reflect the lack of a simple majority for any particular view.

The percentage wanting the RCP to support a change in the law increased to 31.6 per cent from 24.6 per cent when the last survey was conducted in 2014.

The online survey completed by 6,885 respondents from more than 30 specialties also found that fellows and members personally supporting a change in the law on assisted dying rose to 40.5 per cent from 32.3 per cent, and those opposing fell from 57.5 to 49.1 per cent. Those prepared to participate in assisted dying increased from 21.4 to 24.6 per cent, while the percentage saying no to this fell by a similar amount, from 58.4 to 55.1 per cent.

RCP president Professor Andrew Goddard said: "It is clear that there is a range of views on assisted dying in medicine, just as there is in society. We have been open from the start of this process that adopting a neutral position will mean that we can reflect the differing opinions among our membership.

"Neutral means the RCP neither supports nor opposes a change in the law and we won’t be focusing on assisted dying in our work. Instead, we will continue championing high-quality palliative care services."