Royal College of Surgeons drops opposition to assisted dying

Posted: Mon, 19th Jun 2023

Royal College of Surgeons drops opposition to assisted dying

The National Secular Society has welcomed the Royal College of Surgeons' (RCS) decision to adopt a neutral stance on assisted dying.

The RCS provides education and assessment for over 30,000 surgeons. It previously opposed assisted dying, but a survey of members carried out this year showed 72% supported a change in position.

This included 52% who said the RCS should support a law allowing assisted dying and 20% who supported a position of neutrality. The RCS council subsequently voted to adopt a position of neutrality last week.

The RCS now joins the Royal Colleges of Medicine, Physicians, Psychiatrists, and Nursing in taking a neutral stance on assisted dying. The Royal College of GPs is the only remaining college to oppose assisted dying – despite a majority of its membership supporting a change in stance.

The British Medical Association, the UK's largest doctors' union, dropped its opposition to assisted dying in 2021.

Helping someone to end their life, even when they are terminally ill, remains illegal in England and is punishable by up to 14 years' imprisonment. Eighty-four percent of Brits support a change to the law.

The first ever parliamentary inquiry into assisted dying – which the NSS has submitted evidence to – is ongoing.

NSS: 'neutral stance will ensure experts can engage fully with the debate'

NSS campaigns officer Dr Alejandro Sanchez said: "The council's decision moves the RCS much closer to representing the views of the public, who are largely in favour of decriminalisation of assisted dying.

"With its new policy of neutrality, the RCS can now engage fully with any legal developments and will no longer be able to suggest that surgeons are against assisted dying, which is demonstrably untrue."

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