Royal College of GPs threatened with legal action over hostile assisted dying stance

Two GPs have threatened the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) with legal action after it decided earlier this year to remain opposed to assisted dying, despite a majority of GPs in a prior consultation wanting it to move to be neutral or supportive stance. 

In February 2020 the Royal College of GPs published the results of their 2019 survey of members’ views on the college’s position on changing the law on assisted dying. 41% of the 6,674 GP’s who responded thought the RCGP should support a change in the law; 10% thought the College should be neutral; with 47% believing that the College should retain its opposition. Excluding abstentions, that meant a majority voted for a change in the position to neutral or support. The results also showed a leap in support for assisted dying amongst GPs, as the number of respondents wanting the RCGP to support assisted dying increased by sevenfold, rising from 5% in 2013.  However, despite this, the College’s council chose to remain opposed. This caused outrage amongst many GPs who believe that a neutral stance would be a better reflection of the divided opinions.

Professor Aneez Esmail and Sir Sam Everington, both high-profile members of the RCGP have now mounted a legal challenge to the RGCP council decision. Their press release also reports a new poll of 1,000 GPs who were asked what position the RCGP should take, given the 2019 RCGP poll results. 38% of respondees said the College should now adopt a neutral position on law change, with 20% saying it should support it and only 35% agreeing with the Council’s decision to retain its opposition to legalisation.

My Death, My Decision’s Lead Campaign Commentator, Phil Cheatle, said:

‘The public rightly hold doctors in very high regard, however the same cannot be said of the organisations that claim to represent them. When such organisations disregard the clear wishes of their members and the overwhelming support for assisted dying from the public, they risk undermining trust in their decision-making.  

‘Organisations representing healthcare professionals should be playing an active role in advising on possible UK assisted dying legislation to ensure it is safe, workable and integrated with excellent palliative care, so that it enables people to have the good death they crave when that requires medical assistance to die.’

‘MDMD welcomes the scrutiny being applied to the RCGP decision. We are in full support of those bringing this case.’


For any more information or comment please contact Phil Cheatle, My Death, My Decision’s Lead Campaign Commentator at 

My Death, My Decision is a grassroots non-profit organisation that campaigns for a balanced and compassionate approach to assisted dying in England and Wales. As a growing movement, we are at the forefront of social change: nearly 90% of the public now favours a change in the law to allow adults of sound mind, who are either terminally ill or facing incurable suffering, the option of a peaceful, painless, and dignified death.

Read more about My Death, My Decision’s campaign for an inclusive change in the law: