Doctors asked if they support giving lethal drugs to terminally ill patients to try to change law

Doctors will be asked if they support giving lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients.

The Royal College of Physicians is to poll them next month on whether the law on assisted dying should change.

It means the respected institution may drop its opposition to assisted dying, which it has held for five years.

Unless two-thirds of its 35,000 hospital doctors and consultants oppose it, the college will move to a ‘neutral’ stance which critics say could shift public opinion towards euthanasia.

If two-thirds say the college should support assisted dying, the organisation could ultimately lobby the Government for a change in the law.

The poll follows growing support from the medical profession on helping terminally ill people to die. 

The Queen’s former doctor, Sir Richard Thompson, said two years ago that doctors have a ‘duty’ to help people die comfortably.

Assisted dying is legal in Canada, the Netherlands and some states in the US including Oregon and Washington.

Doctors prescribe a powerful painkiller and patients inject it themselves.

But Professor Patrick Pullicino, of East Kent Hospitals University NHS Trust, who helped expose hospital deaths under the discredited Liverpool Care Pathway, said: ‘Assisted dying has been tried in several countries and it is the thin end of the wedge. 

It starts off with people consenting and being carefully screened, then the door opens.

‘In Oregon, in particular, most of those who seek assisted dying are elderly people who don’t want to be a burden to their families.’

When the RCP asked members in 2014 whether they would personally ‘participate actively’ in assisted dying were it legalised, 58 per cent said no.

In the UK, under prosecution guidelines brought in nine years ago, doctors are not allowed to help anyone kill themselves. They face a jail term of up to 14 years under the Suicide Act 1961. 

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