Doctors to be asked: Would you help kill your patients?
DOCTORS will be asked if they support giving lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients.
The Royal College of Physicians is to poll staff in England next month on whether the law should change.
It means the respected institution may drop its opposition to assisted dying, which it has held for five years.
Unless two-thirds of its 35,000 hospital doctors and consultants oppose it, the college will move to a ‘neutral’ stance, which critics say could shift public opinion towards euthanasia. If two-thirds say the college should support assisted dying, the organisation could ultimately lobby the Government for a change in the law.
The poll follows growing support from the medical profession on helping terminally ill people to die.
The Queen’s former doctor, Sir Richard Thompson, said two years ago that doctors have a ‘duty’ to help people die comfortably.
Assisted dying is legal in Canada, the Netherlands and some states in the US. Doctors prescribe a powerful painkiller and patients inject it themselves.
But Professor Patrick Pullicino, of East Kent Hospitals University NHS Trust, who helped expose hospital deaths under the Liverpool Care Pathway, said: ‘Assisted dying has been tried in several countries and it is the thin end of the wedge.
‘In Oregon, in particular, most of those who seek assisted dying are elderly people who don’t want to be a burden to their families.’
When the RCP asked members in 2014 whether they would ‘participate actively’ in assisted dying, 58 per cent said no.
In Scotland there is no official guidance on the laws surrounding assisted suicide but charges can be pursued.
In May 2015, plans to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland were rejected by MSPs in an 82 to 36 vote against.
In 2017, a cross-party group was set up to continue that debate and increase awareness of end-of-life choices.