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Christian medical group outlines opposition to assisted dying ahead of doctors' vote

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) are to poll their members on whether they would 'actively participate' in assisted dying and whether they want to make it legal.

The decision could be cited in legal cases or parliamentary debates. Currently, assisting or encouraging someone's death is illegal under the Suicide Act of 1961.

It's not the first time the 35,000 members have been asked about this issue.

In 2014, 44.4% of respondents thought the RCP should be opposed to assisted dying, 31% thought it should be neutral or have no stance and 24.6% opted for the RCP being in favour.

The significance of this poll however is that the RCP will adopt a position of 'neutral' until two-thirds of the membership vote either way.

Speaking to Premier, Steve Fouch from the Christian Medical Fellowship said: "It is helpful for the Royal Colleges to be able to say 'we do represent the views of our members' and it's quite clear…that the majority of doctors still do not feel comfortable with being involved with assisted dying and would prefer there not to be a change in the law."

Fouch added that evidence from other countries shows the issue becomes a slippery slope when the law is changed.

He said: "Our worry is once you start to remove the safeguards for one group of people and say, effectively, 'these lives are not worth saving' you inevitably get pressure to extend it to other groups of people".

The poll will ask the following questions via email:

1. What should the RCP's position be on whether or not there should be a change in the law to permit assisted dying? a. In favour, b. Opposed, c. Neutral

2. Do you support a change in the law to permit assisted dying? a. Yes, b. No, c. Undecided

3. Regardless of your support or opposition to change, if the law was changed to permit assisted dying, would you be prepared to participate actively? A. Yes, b. No, c. Don't Know

4. Is there anything else you want to say about this issue?

The lobby group Christian Action Research Education's CEO 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.”

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