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Reject proposals to allow any form of assisted suicide, CMA (UK) president tells doctors

Doctors have been urged to reject proposed changes in the law that would allow any form of assisted suicide.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has said it will poll its 35,000 members and fellows next month asking if they would help a terminally ill patient to die and whether the law should be changed to allow assisted suicide.

The poll will also ask members what they think the RCP’s position on assisted suicide should be.

Describing the move as “worrying” and unnecessary, Dr Dermot Kearney, president of the Catholic Medical Association (UK), questioned whether there are any “sinister agendas” behind the decision to poll members on the topic, as the college only reaffirmed its position against assisted suicide five years ago.

“As recently as 2014, members of the Royal College of Physicians rejected any change in the law to allow any form of assisted suicide to be introduced into this country,” Dr Kearney told The Catholic Universe. “A majority stated that they would not be prepared to participate in assisted suicide and the largest group of respondents clearly felt that the Royal College should remain opposed to the introduction of assisted suicide and not simply hold a neutral stance on this issue.

“The fact that the same questions are being regurgitated so frequently suggests that some with sinister agendas sense that doctors will eventually change their minds and will eventually give the ‘right’ or ‘desired’ answers if the questions are asked often enough,” Dr Kearney added.

When the RCP asked members in 2014 whether they would personally be prepared to ‘participate actively’ in assisted suicide were it legalised, 58.4 per cent said no.

These results were similar to those from a 2006 RCP poll, the college said.

In 2014, 44.4 per cent of respondents said the RCP should be opposed to assisted suicide, 31 per cent thought it should be neutral or have no stance and 24.6 per cent opted for the RCP being in favour.

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

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

Commenting on the RCP’s forthcoming poll, Dr Kearney warned: “This is a worrying move and does not seem at all necessary. It is, however, a sign of the times and a strong indication that these are dangerous times for vulnerable persons.

“Let’s hope and pray that a large majority of doctors will retain the belief that deliberately killing vulnerable persons has no place in the caring professions and no place in a civilised society,” he added.

Read more on this story in this week’s edition of The Catholic Universe (dated Friday 18th January 2019).
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Picture: File photo dated 15/08/14 of a nurse with a stethoscope. (Lynne Cameron/PA).