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Roughly 55% of GPs Would Choose Assisted Suicide Over Suffering – Poll

Research company medeConnect conducted the survey, which canvassed 1,000 participants and found that 55 percent of GPs want medical bodies to remain neutral on the topic of assisted dying for the terminally ill.

A new poll commissioned by the Campaign for Dignity in Dying revealed that roughly half of GPs would take prescribed drugs to facilitate assisted suicide if they were terminally ill and suffering. 

The survey asked GPs: "If you were terminally ill and suffering unbearably at the end of life with only months or weeks to live would you personally want or not want the choice of assisted dying in order to control the manner and timing of your death?" 

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43 percent responded they would want the option of assisted dying, with 27 percent stating they would not. The remaining 30 percent did not answer.  

The survey comes as the Royal College of Physicians quiz its members on their stance, with some medics lambasting the college for running a "sham poll" to sway the institution's opinion. 

Most of the doctors chose the option of "assisted dying" in the poll, but under certain circumstances. 

The RCP currently opposes assisted dying, but according to the survey, the RCP will remain neutral unless 60 percent of those polled vote for or against it. Results from past polling found that 44 percent voted against assisted dying, 31 percent remained neutral, and 25 voted in favour of it.

A 2015 Commons vote rejected a bid to green light assisted death for those with less than six months to live, under the approval of a judge and two licensed doctors. 

Former RCP ethics committee chairman John Saunders threatened to launch a judicial review, slamming the poll as "manifestly unreasonable" if it yields the same results as a 2014 vote. 

What Are Professionals Saying About The Poll? 

Dr. Jacky Davis, Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying chairman, said in a press release: "These results show what we know to be true, that there's no consensus amongst doctors when it comes to the subject of assisted dying. Because of that, most doctors think their medical colleges and representative bodies should adopt a neutral stance so that everyone's views can be represented."  

"The Royal College of Physicians is frequently asked for its stance on this high profile issue, which may be cited in legal cases and parliamentary debate, so it is essential that we base this on an up-to-date understanding of our members' and fellows' views," RCP president Prof. Andrew Goddard said in a  press release on Tuesday. 

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Prof. Goddard added that because doctors were divided on the issue, the RCP wanted to "ensure that we only hold a position one way or another if there is a clear majority view". 

"If the vote is for a neutral position this would mean that the RCP neither supported nor opposed a change in the law, and could reflect the differing views of its members. This should not be taken to mean support for a change in the law to allow assisted dying." 

Phil Cheatle, campaign policy coordinator for UK right-to-die campaign organisation My Death, My Decision told Sputnik that current laws against assisted dying break down "the doctor-patient relationship when it is most needed."

"At an enormously difficult period, in both a patient and their family's life, we believe that the law shouldn't deny those who are suffering unbearably, the support and care that they need from a medical professional," Mr. Cheatle said. "The experiences of Canada and Switzerland demonstrate that a better balance, which both protects the most vulnerable and respects a patient's autonomy is possible."

"My Death, My Decision welcomes today's result, and notes with interest that 43% of doctors would want the option of assisted dying for themselves. Even those who wouldn't want that option for themselves would not necessarily want to deny it to others. Nor should they."

Debates over the right to die have heated up after Noel Conway lost a challenge at the UK Court of Appeals in June 2018 where he appealed his right to assisted death, but the UK High Court rejected his case. Conway, 68, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2014 and can only move his neck, right hand, and head, said that it was "barbaric" that UK courts forced him to decide between "unacceptable options".

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