Assisted dying: Doctors are topic of debate.

By Hannah Scott.

Doctors across the UK are going to be asked to if they are for or against assisted dying to be legalised.

Despite every week one British person travelling abroad planning to commit suicide, the most recent vote in parliament (2015) had underwhelming support, by 330 to 118.

Next month the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) will ask their 35,000 members to vote on assisted dying. Members and fellows of the RCP will be asked the following questions:

  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?

Because of the Suicide Act 1961, currently in the UK any person found to have helped in assisting someone’s suicide can face a 14 year jail sentence.

header photo

Dignity in Dying March outside House of Commons (2014).

Dignity in Dying are an organisation that are campaigning for assisted dying to be legalised in the UK. It is their belief that when a person knows that their death in inevitable (short-term) that they should not be subject to suffering. That those who are, deserve the choice to choose when and how they die.

Thomas Davies, Director of Campaigns and Communications for Dignity in Dying: “An assisted dying law would grant people at the end of life, the opportunity to take control of the dying process. Instead of having to suffer in pain, in suffering or without dignity, a dying person could take a life-ending medication in their own homes and die on their own terms. There would be strict safeguards, with two doctors assessing each person to ensure they had the correct prognosis, possessed full mental capacity and were not under any pressure to make the decision,

It is important to recognise that if the RCP does become neutral, it does not mean the College will campaign for assisted dying. It would simply ensure the RCP could participate and contribute to a more well-informed debate. It would ensure the views of all members of the medical profession can be represented, not just the minority of those who believe the College should oppose a change in the law.”

They help those who are going through the process and their families, whilst campaigning for the laws to be changed. More information on people’s stories can be found here.

In the past 20 years over 350 people have travelled to Switzerland to Dignitas, to carry out their suicide.


Poll carried out on twitter found the following results.

A spokesperson from Dignitas said: What is possible in Switzerland as an option to self-determinedly ending one’s suffering is ‘assisted suicide’  – or as we call it more precisely: ‘accompanied suicide’. This expression makes clear what it is: a conscious, well-considered and prepared ending of one’s suffering and life by own action. An accompanied suicide means that the individual wishing to end his or her life must be able to administer the lethal drug (or any other method) by himself or herself. And he or she must have full capacity of judgment. Most important, the person is not left alone, but may end his/her life in presence of next-of-kin and friends.”

Mick – Brother traveled to Switzerland to receive Dignitas treatment.

It’s been five years since the last vote on assisted dying was asked to the RCP. Such a high profile institution are often referred to in parliamentary debates and legal cases, doing this now means there will be up-to-date statistics for use to represent the views of the members and fellows of the RCP.

Follow caption links to find information about remaining neutral and opposed.

Professor Andrew Goddard, RCP president, said: “Following this new poll, the RCP will adopt a neutral position until two-thirds of respondents say that it should be in favour of or opposed to a change in the law. ‘Neutral’ means the RCP neither supports nor opposes a change in the law and can reflect the differing views of its members and fellows in discussions with government and others.”




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