Nearly 80% of GPS oppose a change in the law to permit assisted dying, according to a new study. 

More than 1,700 members of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) responded to the consultation, which was open from 22 May 2013 until 9 October 2013. 

Although a minority of respondents put forward cases to shift the College’s collective position to ‘neutral’ or ‘in favour’ of a change in law on assisted dying, most respondents of the consultation were against a change in the law. Reasons for opposing a change in the law included, 

• change would damage the doctor-patient relationship
• it puts the most vulnerable groups in society at risk
• it is impossible to eliminate the possibility of coercion
• change would shift the focus away from investing in palliative care and treatments for terminal illnesses

New laws would instigate a ‘slippery slope’ and it would only be a matter of time before assisted dying was extended to those who could not consent due to reasons of incapacity and the severely disabled, the study said. 

Some doctors thought that the possibility of a wrong decision being made was too high to take the risk. The GP-patient relationship, with GPs often attending patients in the final days and hours of their lives, means that GPs would be one of the professional groups most affected by any change in the law on assisted dying.

Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the RCGP, said: "This was one of the most comprehensive consultations the College has ever undertaken and the quality of the responses on this extremely important issue has been very high. GPs will continue, as they have always done, to provide excellent care to patients in the final days and hours of their lives."