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Doctors oppose move to 'neutral' on assisted dying

Fri 01 Feb 2019
By Premier Journalist

Members of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) are raising concerns about a poll on assisted dying.

Under the terms of the new census, the college will adopt a 'neutral' position unless 60 per cent of members vote to maintain the current position of opposing a change in the law.

Twenty-three members have expressed their concern in a letter to The Times newspaper.

They say it is wrong to demand a supra-majority simply to maintain the status quo and argue that the move is a deliberate attempt by a minority on the RCP council to drop the college's opposition to assisted suicide.

One of the signatories, Dr Rosemary Anthony-Pillai who is a Consultant Palliative Care Physician in London told Premier:

"They have unilaterally moved to a neutral position and created an unfair vote by bringing in a supra-majority.... well, they have actually downgraded it from 66 per cent to 60 per cent following a council meeting a few weeks ago. And what they have said is, unless that threshold is met, they will stay at 'neutral'."

The writers of the letter say they acknowledge that there are a variety of opinions held by doctors on this issue but the last poll that was carried out found that 58 per cent of members opposed a change in the law, with under 25 per cent believing that the college should campaign in favour of new legislation.

Dr Rosemary Anthony-Pillai told Premier: "'Neutral' does not mean neutral. And we only need to look at countries such as Canada and even the state of Oregon and the state of California - when medical colleges have gone to 'neutral', a change in the law has invariably occurred that allows assisted dying."

The signatories of the letter call on the Royal College "to retain the more orthodox, justifiable and democratic approach that it has used in the past when interpreting this poll."

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