The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has released a statement on its website, clarifying that it does not support a change in the law on assisted suicide.
[Please note: The RCP is not the same as the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), which recently said it remained opposed to assisted suicide.]
Although it is not mentioned in the RCP’s statement, this clarification comes in the light of legal action which had been taken against the College.
Last year, the RCP polled its members on the issue of assisted suicide. In an unorthodox and highly criticised move, the RCP’s Council said before the vote that the College would go neutral unless a super-majority of 60% was either in favour of law change or opposed.
The ultimate result was that 43.4% were opposed to assisted suicide, 31.6% said the College should support a law change, while 25% supported the College adopting a neutral position.
Due to the irregular framing of the poll and despite it being the least most popular option, the College still went neutral.
As CARE warned at the time, this was then interpreted by some as the RCP being in favour of – or at least indifferent towards – a change in the law.
But now, in this new statement, the RCP has called this interpretation ‘regrettable’ and clarified what the poll actually means.
The statement says: “So that there can be no doubt, the RCP clarifies that it does not support a change in the law to permit assisted dying at the present time.”
In addition, the College has acknowledged that the majority of doctors are opposed to any change in the law and that most doctors would not want to participate in an assisted suicide.
“Following the highly irregular way the RCP framed its recent poll of members on the sensitive issue of assisted suicide, this clarification is extremely welcome.
“As we warned at the time, the College’s new position was undoubtedly interpreted by some as the green light that the RCP really supports assisted suicide.
“This new statement makes is very clear that this is simply not the case.
“The RCP is stating that it does not support assisted suicide. Neither does the Royal College of General Practitioners, or any other major medical professional body.
“Legalising assisted suicide would be a tragic backwards step for our country and would put some of the most vulnerable at risk.
“Our focus must be on improving palliative care and caring for people, rather than killing them.”