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Royal College of Physicians changes its stance on assisted dying to “neutrality”

Hospital physicians have dropped their opposition to the concept of helping terminally ill patients to die.

The Royal College of Physicians has now adopted a neutral stance on the issue of assisted dying following a poll of its members.

Of the three options, 43.4% of respondents thought the RCP should be opposed to a change in the law on assisted dying, compared to 44.4% when the survey was last conducted in 2014.

The percentage wanting the RCP to support a change in the law increased to 31.6% from 24.6%, and 25% thought the RCP should be neutral.

The RCP said its neutral stance reflects the decision to require a majority of 60% for a position either supporting or opposing a change in the law.

The survey, carried out between 5 February and 1 March, also asked doctors whether they personally support a change in the law on assisted dying. Those supporting such a change increased to 40.5% from 32.3%, while those opposing it fell from 57.5% to 49.1%. The survey was completed by 6,885 respondents from more than 30 specialties.

The percentage of doctors saying that if the law changed they would be prepared to participate in assisted dying increased from 21.4% to 24.6%, while the percentage saying no to this fell by a similar amount, from 58.4% to 55.1%.

RCP president Professor Andrew Goddard said: “It is clear that there is a range of views on assisted dying in medicine, just as there is in society. We have been open from the start of this process that adopting a neutral position will mean that we can reflect the differing opinions among our membership.

“Neutral means the RCP neither supports nor opposes a change in the law and we won’t be focusing on assisted dying in our work. Instead, we will continue championing high quality palliative care services.”

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