RCP assisted dying survey – voting now open!

13 February 2019

Shuli Levy is a locum consultant geriatrician at the Hammersmith hospital, London, running liaison geriatrics and MDT support teams for tertiary specialist services. She Chair of the BGS Ethics and Law Special Interest Group.

From the 5th of February to the 1st of March, the Royal College of Physicians of London (RCP London) is polling its fellows and members on whether or not there should be a change in the law to permit assisted dying. The RCP last polled its fellows and members on this issue in 2014. That poll  asked about respondents’ personal opinion and, for the first time, whether they believed the RCP as an organisation should take a position. A summary of the results from 2014 can be found here. At that time, a majority of respondents did not support a change in the law to permit assisted dying.  In addition, respondents were asked what they thought the College’s position on assisted dying should be. 24.6% felt the College should be in favour of assisted dying, 44.4% voted against, and 31% favoured a neutral stance.

The RCP is now re-polling members, five years since the last vote, in recognition of shifting attitudes both within the profession, among those we work with and those we care for. In doing so, the RCP recognises its central and influential role in representing the profession on this issue to the public, the courts, the media and policy makers.

This is a highly emotive and sensitive topic which demands thoughtful, nuanced debate.  Geriatricians are the largest group of physicians in the country.  We spend our days caring for people who are dying, who are living with frailty and multi-morbidity, who are adjusting to life-changing diagnoses, who are uncertain about the future and vulnerable to the changes it will engender. We are certainly privileged to play such an extraordinary role in supporting patients and their loved ones through their complex journeys.  Our views on assisted dying are honed by daily interactions with those who will be most affected by a change in the law. 

It is vital that our voice is heard and that we take this opportunity a speciality to vote and influence the position of the RCP.  Whatever your views – and even if you are uncertain on your position on assisted dying, as many doctors are -  please take the time to complete the survey and be part of the debate.  If you are a member or fellow and have not received an invite via email, please email policy [at] rcplondon [dot] ac [dot] uk

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