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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. Humanists UK, which campaigns to legalise assisted dying for both the terminally ill and incurably suffering, has welcomed the announcement.

In February, the RCGP announced that it would retain its longstanding opposition to assisted dying, after a plurality of its members voted to maintain their hostile stance. At the time, Humanists UK raised concerns about the fairness of the RCGP’s decision, as a majority of GPs voted for the RCGP to adopt either a neutral or supportive stance.

In a letter to the RCGP’s Board of Trustees, two distinguished medics, Professor Aneez Esmail and Sir Sam Everington, have now set out similar concerns and warned that the RCGP may have acted unlawfully. In their statement, which has been supported by the Good Law Project and Dignity in Dying, they cite concerns about the transparency of the RCGP’s decision-making and have asked for the minutes explaining the RCGP’s decision to be released.

The news was released alongside a new survey of 1,000 GPs, carried out by medeConnect, that found that just 35% now support the RCGP’s stance. The  British Medical Association is expected to publish the results of a similar membership survey next year.

Responding to the news, Humanist UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said: 

‘By choosing to remain opposed to assisted dying, despite the clear preference of GPs to adopt a neutral or supportive stance, the RCGP raised real concerns about the integrity of its decision making process. We therefore welcome this move to challenge that decision.

‘This polling in support of assisted dying reflects a wider trend across our country, as nearly 90% of British adults now support legal, safe, and compassionate assisted dying for the terminally ill and incurably suffering. Given the significant shift in both public and medical opinion, a review into existing law banning assisted dying is now long-overdue’.


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read more about the case:

Read our previous news item announcing the RCGP consultation and BMA consultation.

Read more about our work on assisted dying.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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