Assisted suicide: Most doctors oppose ‘unethical’ change

The “overwhelming majority” of doctors oppose legalising assisted suicide because it is “unethical and unsafe”, senior clinicians have said in an open letter.

The doctors were responding to claims that the medical profession supports changing the law.

However over 40 clinicians, led by consultant Dr Stephen Hutchison, said evidence shows the majority of UK doctors actually oppose assisted suicide.


Last week eleven doctors gave their support to proposals from Margo MacDonald MSP to introduce assisted suicide.

Following their letter MacDonald said they “are typical of the majority of doctors, certainly most of the doctors I meet are in favour”.

But in the latest letter, 44 doctors say: “The facts demonstrate that she has got it seriously wrong.

“There is established evidence from careful research that the majority of UK doctors (up to 94% in some specialities) are opposed to assisted suicide”.


The medics went on to point out that many medical groups are against a change in the law, including the Royal College of Physicians, the British Medical Association and the Association for Palliative Medicine.

“We are senior clinicians who are part of the overwhelming majority of doctors who are opposed to assisted suicide, because we consider it unethical and unsafe.

“There are plenty more like us”, they concluded.


Under MacDonald’s Bill, people as young as 16 with a terminal illness or progressive life-shortening condition would be able to have their end-of-life wishes recorded by their GP.

In 2010 Scottish politicians defeated a previous attempt from the MSP to introduce assisted suicide.

Politicians voted 85 to 16 against the End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill in a free vote, with two abstentions.


Earlier this week a columnist for The Sunday Times warned “the nature of society itself will change” if assisted suicide is introduced.

Gillian Bowditch cautioned that many “elderly or disabled people already feel marginalised” but introducing assisted suicide would make the situation worse.

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