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Assisted Suicide

Why the Royal College of Physicians should retain their opposition to assisted suicide

17 January 2019

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) is to poll its 35,000 members and fellows next month on whether or not there should be a change in the law to permit assisted suicide. It will also ask its members whether they would personally take part in an assisted suicide.

The RCP said it would adopt a neutral position on assisted suicide until two-thirds of respondent’s support or oppose a law change.

There are real concerns about the way in which the College has gone about this survey. Why are they declaring a significant change in their position on assisted suicide without a majority voting for that change? And why are they insisting that this position change will only be reversed if two thirds of members reject the change?

CARE’s Chief Executive Nola Leach said:

“If the Royal College was to move to a neutral position this would effectively be a signal of inferred support for assisted suicide. Moreover, changing the law on assisted suicide would fundamentally alter the relationship between doctor and patient, giving doctors the power to kill as well as cure.

“I hope members and fellows at the Royal College of Physicians strongly reject the proposed change in position so that the RCP retains its official opposition to assisted suicide in line with every major disability rights organisation and other doctors’ groups including the BMA and the Association of Palliative Medicine.”

CARE continues to advocate against assisted suicide and euthanasia in the UK, seeking to protect and promote human dignity, the sanctity of life, and foster a society which focuses on caring rather than killing.

The slippery slope argument is real and should offer a stark warning to those wanting to introduce similar legislation in the UK.

In places where assisted suicide has been legalised, the laws have been dangerously expanded to include non-terminally ill patients, such as those who suffer from dementia or depression and also to include children. You can our article on this in The Economist here..

It is far better to care for the most vulnerable, rather than creating a culture of pressure where the right to die quickly becomes a duty to die.

Judges, parliamentarians, doctors and disability rights groups are all in agreement – that the safest law is the one we currently have. It carefully balances the individual’s rights with the need to protect vulnerable people, who could feel pressured to end their lives.

The Court of Appeal made it very clear that the current law on assisted suicide achieves a fair balance between the interests of wider society and the interests of people like Mr Conway. Since 2003 across UK Parliaments, there have been over 10 attempts to change the law in respect to assisted suicide and each one has been rejected.

Listen to CARE’s NI Policy Officer Mark Baillie on why the RCP should retain their opposition to assisted suicide here.

Listen to CARE spokesperson James Mildred outline why it’s impossible to introduce a law on assisted suicide that would not be open to abuse here.

You can read an excellent article by Steve Fouch at Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) on the myth of neutrality and the RCP’s decision here.


Assisted Suicide

Where assisted suicide is legal, it makes vulnerable people feel like a burden. CARE works to uphold laws that protect those people, and to assist them to live—not to commit suicide.

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