Paralympic legend Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has strongly lambasted the Royal College of Physicians’ (RCP) decision to move to a neutral position on assisted suicide before launching a consultation, calling it a ‘travesty of a consultation’ and warning that ‘it risks bringing the college into disrepute as a professional body’.
Baroness Grey-Thompson – one of the most successful and celebrated disabled athletes in the UK – said that consultations are welcome, so long as they are run fairly, and voiced concerns at the decision to have a neutral position on assisted suicide unless at least two-thirds of members vote otherwise.
‘Why has this crazy change been made?’ she wrote in The Times.
‘The official reason is that by being neutral the college can reflect the differing views of its members. The real reason is activism by the assisted dying lobby. Only a small minority of members want to see an assisted suicide law. They know there is no chance of the college supporting their project but neutrality is, for them, the next best thing because it suggests (misleadingly) that there is a shift in medical opinion. So the activists have been lobbying the college’s management to go neutral.’
Baroness Grey-Thompson said that such a ‘venerable institution’ allowing itself to be ‘pushed into fixing the rules…for a consultation on a subject that lies at the heart of medicine is deeply worrying’.
Disabled people can often find themselves ‘at the margins of health care’ and many worry about how this would worsen under legalised assisted suicide.
‘Though activists in Britain say we aren’t in their sights as candidates for assisted suicide, we note with concern that they also commend such legislation abroad that includes disabled people,’ wrote Baroness Grey-Thompson.
She echoed the sentiments of Dr Dermot Kearney, president of the Catholic Medical Association (UK), who last month questioned why the RCP would need to consult its members on the issue less than five years after it reaffirmed its position against assisted suicide.
‘It is right for the RCP to consult its members on this important subject, though why another consultation is needed fewer than five years after the last one is not easy to see,’ said Baroness Grey-Thompson. ‘But let it be a fair one. If, as I would expect, most members express their opposition to assisted dying, let that be its position, while also making clear that there are other minority views.
‘What is being done now is a travesty of a consultation and, unless it is halted and restarted, it risks bringing the college into disrepute as a professional body.’
Picture: Great Britain’s Tanni Grey-Thompson during the heats of the Women’s T53 400 metres at the Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece, on Saturday 25th September 2004. (Gareth Copley/PA).