hand on rail of hospital bed

Royal College faces potential reprimand over assisted suicide stance

13th May 2019 - James Mildred

The Charity Commission has written to the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and expressed concerns about the manner in which the College dropped its historic opposition to assisted suicide.

The RCP now faces being questioned by the regulator after its recent poll on assisted suicide caused considerable unrest, with the chair of the ethics committee resigning and another former chair labelling it a ‘sham poll’.

Only a few months ago, the RCP – a registered charity – changed it official position on assisted suicide to one of so-called ‘neutrality’ following a survey. When the results were published, it showed neutrality was the most unpopular option among members.

Concerns over the process

In a letter to the College, the Charity Commission said it was “unclear how the decision to change the [RCP’s] position to neutral was determined… the matter raises concerns with regard to how the charity dealt with and managed such a sensitive and high-profile subject matter”.

Doctors campaign against change

Before the survey was even carried out, the College decided in a council meeting without consulting members that it would move to neutral position unless a super-majority of 60% were either in favour or opposed.

Nearly 2,000 doctors signed an open letter to the President of the RCP urging him to withdraw the poll and if it was re-issued, to make sure it was conducted in a more democratic way.

Find out more

Nigel Cameron on why we must save doctors from coming under pressure to kill their patients

Christian view on euthanasia and assisted suicide

The main arguments for and against


Get the latest updates
on our work