7 in 10 palliative doctors would refuse to take part in assisted suicides, survey shows

A large majority of Scottish palliative care doctors would refuse to take part in assisted suicides and close to half would resign if the law changes, a new survey shows.

The survey, by the Association for Palliative Medicine of Great Britain and Ireland, shows:

  • 75% of doctors would not be willing to participate in any part of an ‘assisted dying’ process.
  • 43% would resign if their organisation elected to take part in assisted suicides.
  • 71% would consider resigning if their organisation elected to take part in assisted suicides.

The research also demonstrates deep concern about ‘assisted dying’ proposals in the UK among experts in end-of-life care.

Almost 9 in 10 respondents (86%) said the practice would have a negative or very negative impact on palliative care services.

Almost 8 in 10 respondents (78%) said assisted suicide would have a negative or very negative impact on their conversations with patients and families.

And almost 9 in 10 respondents (88%) said they do not believe that proposed legal safeguards would prevent harm to vulnerable patients under their care.

Prof David Galloway, Honorary Professor of Surgery, University of Glasgow and  Former President, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow commented:

“It is palliative care specialists who deal in the tragic effects of terminal illness. This survey provides exactly the kind of expert advice MSP’s ought to expect.

It is timely, relevant, undeniably expert and highlights serious concerns about any change in the law to permit assisted suicide”, he added.

“Their concerns relate to dubious safeguards, the real risks which would apply to various vulnerable groups as well as the actual delivery of medically assisted suicide in Scotland.

“It further emphasises where the effort and energy needs to be focussed, and that is in the provision of high quality, compassionate, palliative care for all”, he added.

A spokesman for the Better Way campaign said:

“It is highly notable that strong opposition to assisted suicide exists among palliative care doctors with expert knowledge of its likely impact. People with professional knowledge of end-of-life issues are among the most opposed.

“With proposals of the kind shortly to be considered at Holyrood, there is no room for error or uncertainty. Yet, experts in medicine, disability, suicide prevention, law and policy, and other fields continue to warn that ‘assisted dying’ is unsafe, unpredictable, and unethical.

“MSPs must side with vulnerable and marginalised Scots and oppose ‘assisted dying’. We are confident Scotland can articulate a better way forward that does not put vulnerable patients, and marginalised and oppressed communities, in harms way.”