Assisted Dying

RCGP's 2020 decision 

RCGP UK Council debate was informed by an all member consultation conducted by Savanta ComRes. The consultation was the largest the College has done of its kind, going to 49,539 members and receiving 6674 responses. The results were that:

Statement

%

No.

The RCGP should oppose a change in the law on assisted dying 47% 3144
The RCGP should support a change in the law on assisted dying, providing there is a regulatory framework and appropriate safeguarding processes in place 40% 2684
The RCGP should be neutral on the topic of the law on assisted dying 11% 701
I wish to abstain 2% 145

The second and third questions asked members to elaborate on the reasons for which they opted for that position and on what role, if any, they thought GPs should have in any model of assisted dying.

The purpose of the consultation was to inform RCGP UK Council on members' opinions on the issue. The membership consultation results were reflected upon by a steering group of GPs and the RCGP Ethics Committee and were shared with all Council members and all College Faculty boards and devolved Councils. The outcome of the consultation and the wider issues were debated at RCGP Council in February 2020 and Council made the final decision on the College's position. The Council voting results were: 44 members voted that the College should continue to oppose a change in the law, 13 members voted that the College should not continue to oppose a change in the law, and 5 members abstained.

Council also decided that in view of the resources required to undertake membership consultations and the number of other pressing member priorities, such as workload and workforce, it will not review the College's position on this issue for at least five years unless there are significant developments. 

The process for the 2019 consultation on the College's position on a change in the law on assisted dying

  • In June 2019, UK Council decided to re-examine the College's position on a change in the law in assisted dying and agreed to undertake a whole member consultation on the issue. The results of the consultation would be advisory so Council could be informed of its members' opinions on the topic.  
  • The consultation questions and briefing material were designed with a steering group of GPs.
  • Savanta ComRes, an independent survey company, also reviewed the survey material and launched the survey for 6 weeks. Reminder emails were sent out to members and the consultation was flagged in regular College communications.
  • Savanta ComRes collated and analysed the results and tested them for statistical significance and representativeness. 

Previous consultation on the College's position on a change in the law on assisted dying

In 2013 the College ran a consultation through its 32 faculties, with a questionnaire comprised of free-text questions designed to gauge GPs' attitudes and views. It was conducted with a range of engagement techniques, including face to face events and meetings, as well as a small online survey which received 234 responses. The different faculty boards engaged with varying numbers of members and Council at the time were provided with brief summaries of the events and the free-text responses. The majority of events concluded that the College should be opposed to a change in the law on assisted dying. Of the 234 members who submitted their responses directly to the College 77% indicated that they felt the College should maintain its opposition to a change in the law, 18% wished to see the College move to a position of neutrality, and 5% supported a move to a position of being in favour of a change in the law.

Due to the different methodologies between the two surveys it is not possible to accurately compare the results of the two exercises.  


Footnotes

1 We also surveyed our Republic of Ireland members but their responses were reported separately 
2 See our weighted results [PDF]. Weighting did not affect the overall outcome as it only moved the margins by 1% but, as mentioned above, helped us to assess representativeness across career stage.

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