Doc­tors to be polled on sup­port for as­sisted sui­cide

The Herald - - NEWS - JOE GAMMIE

DOC­TORS will be asked asked if they would help a ter­mi­nally ill pa­tient to die and whether the law should be changed to al­low as­sisted dy­ing.

The Royal Col­lege of Physi­cians is to poll its 35,000 mem­bers and fel­lows next month on whether or not there should be a change in the law to per­mit as­sisted dy­ing.

It will also ask whether its mem­bers would be pre­pared to “par­tic­i­pate ac­tively” in as­sisted dy­ing if the law was changed.

RCP Pres­i­dent, Pro­fes­sor An­drew God­dard, said the sur­vey, which will be emailed out next month, was es­sen­tial to the col­lege un­der­stand­ing its mem­bers’ views.

He added: “The Royal Col­lege of Physi­cians is fre­quently asked for its stance on this high-pro­file is­sue, which may be cited in le­gal cases and par­lia­men­tary de­bate, so it is es­sen­tial that we base this on an up-to-date un­der­stand­ing of our mem­bers’ and fel­lows’ views.”

The RCP said it will adopt a neu­tral po­si­tion un­til two-thirds of re­spon­dents say that it should be in favour or op­posed to a change in the law.

It said this means it will nei­ther sup­port nor op­pose a change in the law so it can re­flect the dif­fer­ing views of its mem­bers and fel­lows in dis­cus­sions with gov­ern­ment and oth­ers.

As­sisted dy­ing is il­le­gal in UK, with doc­tors fac­ing a jail term of up to 14 years un­der the Sui­cide Act 1961.

There is no pro­hi­bi­tion of as­sist­ing a sui­cide in Scots law, but any­one do­ing so could be charged with mur­der or cul­pa­ble homi­cide.

The col­lege de­fines as­sisted dy­ing as “the sup­ply by a doc­tor of a lethal dose of drugs to a pa­tient who is ter­mi­nally ill, meets cer­tain cri­te­ria that will be de­fined by law, and re­quests those drugs in or­der that they might be used by the per­son con­cerned to end their life”.

The new poll will also ask mem­bers what they think the RCP’S po­si­tion on as­sisted dy­ing should be.

A sim­i­lar sur­vey by the col­lege five years ago found a ma­jor­ity did not sup­port a change in the law.

When the RCP asked mem­bers in 2014 whether they would be pre­pared to “par­tic­i­pate ac­tively” in as­sisted dy­ing were it le­galised, 58.4% said no.

Re­sults were sim­i­lar to those from a 2006 RCP poll. There was no ma­jor­ity in 2014 on the ques­tion of what the RCP po­si­tion should be, with 44.4% of re­spon­dents say­ing the RCP should be op­posed to as­sisted dy­ing, 31.0% thought it should be neu­tral or have no stance and 24.6% opted for it to be in favour.

„ Royal Col­lege of Physi­cians is to poll its 35,000 mem­bers.

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