Published: 21st March 2019
The Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) calls on the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) to respect the clear rejection of assisted suicide by its members and to maintain its historic position of opposing any change in the law.
Since the last time the RCP surveyed its members on the issue in 2014, the most prevalent view on what position the College should take with regard to assisted suicide remains that of opposition by a significant margin (roughly unchanged at 43.4%). The numbers wanting the college to take a neutral stance have actually dropped from 31% to 25%.
Yet despite being the least supported option among RCP members, the College has decided before the poll was even taken to impose a neutral position.
Going "neutral" is in reality a vote for change in the law, since the RCP is now dropping its public opposition to the introduction of any new legislation. In doing so, this follows the agenda of those campaigning for law change, who rightly see the opposition of major national medical organisations to assisted suicide as an inconvenient obstacle in their efforts to convince Parliament to change the law.
CMF's CEO, Dr Mark Pickering, commented: "The RCP's bizarre approach to this poll has meekly followed the agenda of those who wish to change the law. The Council's twin decisions: to impose neutrality before the survey was carried out, and to require a supermajority to change this position, are undemocratic and without precedent.
"The actual poll results show once again that opposition to assisted suicide is clearly the most prevalent view of RCP members. The RCP should now respect this and return to its previous position of opposing any changes in the law on assisted suicide.
"Imposing neutrality in defiance of the most prevalent opinion shows how a small and unrepresentative group within the RCP Council who support a change in the law have exerted undue influence upon the College. We hope that RCP members will make their voice heard to their Council on this abuse of process."
Notes to editors
The RCP poll was carried out between 4 February and 1 March 2019 amongst the college's Members and Fellows, of whom 6,885 (29% of the membership) responded to the following questions
1. What should the RCP's position be on whether or not there should be a change in the law to permit assisted dying?
Opposed 43.4%, Neutral 25%. In favour 31%,
2. Do you support a change in the law to permit assisted dying?
No 49.1%, Yes 40.1%, Undecided 10.4%
If "don't knows" are excluded, those opposing a change in the law constitute 54.8% of those expressing an opinion
3. Regardless of your support or opposition to change, if the law was changed to permit assisted dying, would you be prepared to participate actively?
No: 55.1% Yes 24.6%. Don't Know: 20.3%
Philippa Taylor (CMF Head of Public Policy) 020 7234 9664
Steven Fouch (CMF Head of Communications) 020 7234 9668
Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225
Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was founded in 1949 and is an interdenominational organisation with over 4,000 British doctor members in all branches of medicine. A registered charity, it is linked to about 65 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.
CMF exists to unite Christian doctors to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.