Push for GPs to weaken stance on assisted suicide

The chairman of Britain’s largest group of GPs wants the organisation to drop its opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia and go ‘neutral’.

But that would be a “highly dangerous” move, according to one doctor who is also suspicious about the timing of the announcement.

Tomorrow the Council of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) will consider its chairman Clare Gerada’s suggestion that they drop their opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide.


But Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director for Care Not Killing, is very concerned about the move.

He said: “Going neutral would be inappropriate, undemocratic and potentially highly dangerous”.

In 2011, the RCGP restated its strong opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide, saying nothing had changed in the debate since they initially took that stance in 2005.


Dr Saunders said to go neutral on euthanasia and assisted suicide during an economic recession could put immense pressure on vulnerable people to end their lives “so as not to be a financial (or emotional) burden on others”.

He also said Dr Gerada’s call seems “deliberately planned to coincide with the tabling of two new parliamentary bills aimed at legalising assisted suicide.”

Lord Falconer is introducing a bill into the House of Lords in May and Margo MacDonald MSP is bringing a bill to the Scottish Parliament later this year.


Dr Saunders said the RCGP, which is the largest membership organisation in the UK solely for GPs, is a democratic body of doctors that has a responsibility to take the lead on a variety of issues.

Opinion polls show an average of 65 per cent of doctors are against a change in the law.

Last year, the British Medical Association rejected an attempt to adopt a neutral position on assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, the BMA’s former chairman, said the proposal is “probably the worst of all options” because it would exclude doctors from an argument that “would have a huge bearing on” their working lives.

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