Most GPs think medical organisations should drop opposition to assisted dying

More than half of GPs think organisations such as the RCGP and BMA should drop opposition to assisted dying and adopt a 'neutral stance', a poll shows.

End of life care (Photo: iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz)
End of life care (Photo: iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz)

For terminally ill, competent adults, 55% of GPs believe that medical organisations should adopt 'a position of neutrality on the issue of assisted dying', according to a poll by campaign group Dignity in Dying.

More than 1,000 GPs took part in the poll, with only a third of respondents saying they backed organisations such as the RCGP and BMA retaining their current stance.

GPs' views on whether the law should change to legalise assisted dying were more widely split - with 33% against a change in the law, 32% for and 34% unsure or neutral.

End of life care

However, 43% of GPs responding to the poll said that if they were terminally ill and suffering unbearably at the end of life they would want assisted dying as an option.

Dr Jacky Davis, chair of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying, said: 'There’s no consensus among doctors when it comes to the subject of assisted dying. Because of that, most doctors think their medical colleges and representative bodies should adopt a neutral stance so that everyone’s views can be represented.'

BMA medical ethics committee chair Dr John Chisholm said: 'The BMA is opposed to assisted dying and supports the current legal framework which allows for compassionate and ethical care for dying patients. We understand that this is a complex and highly sensitive issue, and that there is a wide range of views held within our membership. Our policy since 2006, however, has been to oppose assisted dying in all its forms.

Policy stance

'Our policy is made through well-established democratic processes, where members debate and vote on motions at our annual representative meetings. At the BMA’s 2016 annual representative meeting, following a researched-backed informed debate on end-of-life care and physician-assisted dying, members were given the opportunity to vote for the BMA to change its stance to one of neutrality. Members rejected this, thus reaffirming our current stance of opposition.

'Our focus remains on promoting investment and supporting improvement in palliative care so that high-quality end-of-life care services are available to all patients who need them.'

An RCGP spokesman confirmed the college's stance was to oppose a change in the law on assisted dying, and that this had followed a consultation in 2014.

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