Most doctors in Britain are still against legalising assisted suicide, a major new survey of nearly 9,000 doctors has found.
Close to two thirds (62.5 per cent) of members of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) agreed that a change in the law is unnecessary, while 37.5 per cent disagreed, according to the survey.
When asked what the RCP’s position on assisted suicide should be, fewer than one in four (24.6 per cent) said ‘in favour’ and 44 per cent said ‘opposed’, in this year’s survey.
And close to six in ten doctors (58.4 per cent) said they would not be prepared to actively participate in assisting a suicide, compared to 59.4 per cent who had the same view in 2006.
As a result of the survey, the RCP has reaffirmed its opposition to assisted suicide.
Dr Andrew Goddard, RCP registrar and senior officer with responsibility for professional matters, said: “These results give us a basis for our position on assisted dying and for responding to proposed legislation, now and in the coming years.”
Last month, Lord Falconer’s Bill to legalise assisted suicide faced criticism at committee stage in the House of Lords.
Under his plans, doctors would be allowed to give lethal drugs to patients thought to have less than six months to live.
In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, former junior Health Minister Baroness Cumberlege said the RCP’s position is “good news”.
“Doctors recognise the negative impact of assisting suicide on their profession and the patients they care for.
“They should not be asked to be gatekeepers for lethal drugs; they know that predicting life expectancy and assessing mental state are fraught with difficulty.
“With some friends and families eager to inherit, it is essential that doctors are not caught up in the collusion of avaricious beneficiaries”, she added.
Earlier this year, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) announced overwhelming opposition to changing the law on assisted suicide.
The decision followed a consultation in which 77 per cent of respondents said the organisation should remain opposed to changing the law.