Assisted Dying Consultation Analysis
In February 2013 Council debated and approved a paper detailing proposals to consult RCGP members on the College’s position on the law on assisted dying. This paper was accepted by Council and the consultation was taken forward by the Ethics Committee and the College’s Policy and Campaigns team.
The consultation ran between 22 May and 9 October 2013. A consultation document was disseminated via email to the Devolved Councils, all Faculties and relevant College committees. It was also publicised in the Chair’s blog, the AiT bulletin, and the members’ email update, and a link to the consultation document was posted on the members’ area of the RCGP website. The consultation document set out a definition of assisted dying and provided various sources of information from both sides of the debate. For ease of reference the full consultation document is attached alongside this paper.
This document provides an analysis of the responses to the consultation. It is intended that this analysis will inform a decision by RCGP Council in February 2014 about what position the College should take on the issue of a change in the law on assisted dying.
This consultation has been one of the most extensive ever conducted by the College, with a particularly key role being played by Devolved Councils and Faculties in ensuring members across the UK were given opportunities to express their views. A significant timeframe was built into the consultation process to allow local and regional organisations enough time to effectively consult members. The overall quality of the responses to the consultation was high, with consultees from all sides of the debate putting forward well argued and evidenced opinions for their point of view on the issues explored in the consultation document.
The conclusion of the analysis contained in this paper is that the consultation results do not provide evidence of a widespread appetite within the RCGP membership for a shift in the College’s position of opposition to a change in the law on assisted dying. Whilst a minority of consultees put forward a case for a shift in position to ‘in favour’ or ‘neutral’, overall most indicated that they felt the College should remain opposed.
77% of members who submitted response forms directly to the College (234 people) indicated that they felt the College should maintain its opposition to a change in the law, with 18% wishing to see the College move to a position of neutrality, and 5% supporting a move to a position of being in favour of a change in the law.
Alongside this, an analysis of the views submitted by Devolved Councils, Faculties, groups or committees (which together engaged 1,479 people) also indicates that a majority favoured the College maintaining its opposition. Of 28 such RCGP bodies who took part in the consultation, 20 reported a majority view in favour of the College maintaining its opposition to a change in the law. Three reported a majority view in favour of a ‘neutral’ stance, with none reporting a majority view in favour of a stance of full support for a change in the law. Four bodies reported that they were unable to reach a clear conclusion. One Faculty recorded its members views in two separate ways, an event with attendees voting in favour of the RCGP changing its official stance to a position of neutrality on the issue of assisted dying, and a survey with the majority in favour of retaining the current RCGP stance of opposition to a change in the law to allow assisted dying.
Read the full analysis here.