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Reaction: Royal College of Physicians no longer opposes assisted dying

BMA medical ethics committee chair, Dr John Chisholm, said:

“The BMA recognises that there are a range of views on this issue, both from the public and as the latest RCP poll demonstrates, the medical profession.

“Given the complex and nuanced nature of this issue, rather than poll our members, the BMA has a well-established democratic process, whereby members vote on motions at our annual representative meeting (ARM) following informed and considered debate. We believe this captures a representative snapshot of our members’ views.

“Our policy since 2006 has been to oppose physician-assisted dying and this was reaffirmed at our 2016 ARM. This followed an extensive research project we conducted with members of the public and doctors on attitudes and perceptions of end-of-life care and some aspects of physician-assisted dying. Motions calling for the BMA to adopt a neutral position have been repeatedly rejected – most recently, at our 2016 ARM.

“Our focus remains on improving the standard of palliative care available for patients, through calling for greater investment and support to enable staff to deliver the highest quality end-of-life care.”

Rob Hendry, Medical Director at Medical Protection said:

“Medical Protection understands that the issues surrounding “assisted dying” are complex and emotive. This is a complex legal and ethical issue and a delicate matter which will attract different views and opinions, however, the law remains unchanged at present. Doctors can always seek the advice of their Medical Defence Organisation if they have any concerns regarding this matter, before they take any steps”

A Spokesperson from the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh said:

“Doctors right across the UK are acutely aware of the challenges around end of life care, and we understand how distressing these issues can be for patients and their families.

“End of life care can therefore be an emotive issue. There are different opinions within the medical profession on end of life care and assisted dying, as today’s poll reinforces.

“Politicians also hold varying views, just as we have seen in the Scottish Parliament during votes as recently as 2015.

“This College held a debate in September 2018, which was an opportunity to have an open and frank conversation about end of life care with representatives from medical, political and legal circles. We are committed to encouraging open debate on this issue at the College.

“It’s vital that the debate continues to include doctors, patients and families as they are the people who are most affected by some of the tough decisions around end of life care.”

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