The Royal College of Physicians has abandoned its historic opposition to assisted suicide despite over half of its members saying they would refuse to participate in the practice if it was made legal.
The RCP said it had been moved to change its position after a survey of its own members found that there was no majority view on assisted suicide.
The poll triggered a backlash among doctors and academics who said it represented a “deliberate attempt” on the part of a minority in the RCP to drop opposition to assisted dying. Opponents claiming that the 60 per cent threshold to maintain the status quo was evidence of vote rigging mounted a legal challenge but this was rejected by the High Court on Thursday.
According to the findings of the poll, 43.4 per cent of respondents thought that the RCP should oppose any change in the law to legalise assisted dying, slightly down from the last survey in 2014 (44.4 per cent).
Doctors who wanted the RCP to support a change in the law rose from 24.6 per cent to 31.6 per cent. Only a quarter of the 6,885 respondents agreed that the RCP should adopt a neutral stance, down from 31 per cent in 2014.
The online survey, carried out between 5 February and 1 March, also found an increase in the number of doctors personally supporting a change in the law on assisted dying, from 32.3 per cent to 40.5 per cent, while those opposing the practice fell from 57.5 per cent to 49.1 per cent.