In a six-hour House of Commons debate on Friday, MPs voted against the controversial Assisted Dying Bill, with 118 votes for compared to 330 against.
The Bill would have allowed doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to dying patients who requested them – which they then would have to take unaided.
Only those with less than six months left to live would have been eligible. They would have needed permission from two doctors – potentially including their GP – and a High Court judge.
Assisted Dying Bill rejected
GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey welcomed the result, but said it was not surprising.
‘Whenever the question has been asked, GPs and the BMA and the RCGP have consistently opposed any change in the law. Our concern is to protect the most vulnerable in society and while individual cases can often be quite heart rending, we need to ensure that all people – and particularly the voiceless – are protected, and current law allows that to take place.
‘Every GP wants to ensure that palliative care patients are looked after as well as they can, and they go to great lengths to do that. I think we need to see greater investment in support for palliative care work and not just in the NHS but more widely. We need to support people within the community; we need to ensure that people have their fears allayed and that they get the support when it’s needed.
‘Improving palliative care has to be the focus. I'm quite sure people on all sides of the debate – and I've no doubt it will continue – want to see care for patients in a palliative situation be as good as it can be.’
Despite BMA opposition to assisted dying, polls have suggested substantial support among GPs - a GPonline survey found 40% of GPs backed the policy.
Photo: Robert Hammond