Royal College of GPs remains opposed to change in the law on assisted dying

Publication date: 21 February 2020

The Royal College of General Practitioners 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.

The member survey was conducted independently by Savanta ComRes. 6,674 members from across the UK responded to the online survey - 13.47% of those consulted*

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

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

RCGP Council agreed today that the survey results did not support a change in the College's existing position on assisted dying**.

Under current laws in each of the four UK nations, assisted dying is illegal. The RCGP last reviewed its position on assisted dying in 2014 following a member consultation in 2013***.

RCGP Council has decided that it will not review the College`s position on this issue for at least five years unless there are significant developments on the issue.

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "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.

"Thank you to RCGP Joint Honorary Secretary Dr Victoria Tzortziou-Brown for leading this piece of work."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7494/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659
press@rcgp.org.uk

Notes to editor

* The consultation was sent to 49,539 RCGP members and was in field between 29 October and 15 December 2019. The survey captured responses from a broad spectrum of RCGP members and the response rate of 13.47% is broadly in line with the industry average for this type of survey. Full data tables are published on the Savanta ComRes website.  

** The voting of RCGP Council can be broken down as follows: that the RCGP will continue to oppose a change in the law on assisted dying - those in favour, 44; those against, 13; abstentions, 5; that Council will not consult again on the issue for five years unless there are significant developments in the issue - those in favour, 55, those against, 6; abstentions, 1.

*** The consultation in 2013 asked different questions, all of which were free text, and used a mixed methodology, including face-to-face events and meetings and a small online survey that had 234 respondents. For the 2019 consultation, RCGP Council decided to follow a more structured approach and give a better opportunity to all its members to engage in this consultation in order to capture a more representative sample of our members` views on the subject. Due to the different methodologies between the two surveys it is not possible to accurately compare the results of the two consultations.

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 53,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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