Assisted suicide “is illegal and doctors should have no part of it”, the leader of the General Medical Council (GMC) has said.
Niall Dickson’s comments came as the GMC, the regulatory authority for doctors, launched a consultation on its first ever guidance on assisted suicide.
The guidance, which is subject to a three month consultation, will help the GMC decide if doctors should face a disciplinary panel if they are accused of encouraging or assisting a suicide.
The draft guidelines say: “Where patients raise the issue of assisted suicide, or ask for information that might ‘encourage or assist’ them in ending their lives, doctors should explain that they cannot do so because providing this information would mean breaking the criminal law.”
They warn that a doctor’s conduct could raise a question of impaired fitness to practise if they provide “practical assistance, for example by helping a person who wishes to commit suicide to travel to the place where they will be assisted to do so”.
Their fitness to practise could also be called into question if they provide “information or advice about methods of committing suicide, and what each method involves from a medical perspective”.
Mr Dickson said: “Encouraging or assisting suicide remains a criminal offence and the guidance reflects the law on the subject.
“We recognise that there are a range of actions which would contravene the Suicide Act – from providing information to a patient to helping someone to travel to Dignitas.
“Some of these actions may not lead to criminal charges, but may still lead to complaints about a doctor’s fitness to practise.”
Last month an Independent MSP launched her second attempt to overturn the law against assisted suicide in Scotland, but critics warned it would set a dangerous precedent.
Margo MacDonald’s last attempt to legalise assisted suicide was soundly rejected in 2010 by 85 votes to 16.
However, the Lothians MSP has launched a consultation on a proposed new Bill which would allow those suffering from a terminal illness to end their life.