UK physician ethics committee chair resigns over assisted suicide change

assisted suicide, euthanasia, legalize assisted suicide, disabilities

The chairman of the ethics committee for the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), originally founded in 1518, has stepped down, along with several other members, over the change of the British medical group’s official position on assisted suicide. Before, the RCP formally opposed the idea of doctors helping their patients kill themselves; now, the group has shifted to merely neutral.

Albert Weale, a professor specializing in political theory and social policy, resigned and slammed the position change, calling it incoherent and unfair. Two other members likewise left with him. “There seems to be no chain of coherent reasoning leading to the council’s own position – a situation I regret deeply,” Weale said to the Telegraph.

The position change came after a survey of doctors, the majority of which said the RCP should remain opposed to assisted suicide. Yet the organization had already decided to take a neutral stance, unless there was a super-majority vote of 60% of more outweighing their decision. So, even though only one in four doctors agreed with its decision, the RCP changed its stance to neutral.

READ: Study: Assisted suicide can be painful, prolonged and inhumane

Weale also complained that the council had already made up its mind, even as the ethics committee was giving them expert advice, leading him to feel as if the committee had been wasting their time. “There is simply no point in the committee offering reasoned positions if they are ignored by council,” Weale wrote in his resignation letter.

A doctor who opposed the position change, David Randall, told the Telegraph, “These resignations from the RCP’s ethics committee add to the concern that the college has rushed into a position of neutrality on assisted dying without proper process, and without fully considering the implications of neutrality.”

Assisted suicide is growing in popularity and is being increasingly legalized throughout the world — yet the people it affects most are not people who are actively dying, but the most vulnerable in society. Assisted suicide targets people who are elderly, sick, disabled, and poor, and those who seek it out are not doing so because they are scared of dying painful deaths. Study after study, including from reputable medical journals like the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Medical Journal, report that people choose assisted suicide because they are depressed, hopeless, without support, and afraid of being a burden to loved ones.

Health care does not mean helping desperate people who think they have no other options to die — and that’s exactly why so few doctors are willing to get on board.

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