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Patients would trust doctors more if assisted dying was legal

New research also finds that majority of doctors would be involved in an assisted dying law

A survey by Populus of 5,000 members of the public has found that if assisted dying were to become law 87% of people would either have increased trust in doctors or that it would make no difference to the doctor-patient relationship, while only 12% said that it would impact negatively.

A further study, a medeConnect poll of 1,000 GPs across England and Wales, has found that half would be prepared to be involved in assisted dying.

The medeConnect poll asked doctors what, if anything, they would be prepared to undertake (from a list of options) if assisted dying became legal. 39% indicated would conduct an assessment of the patient’s request, 21% would prescribe the life-ending medication if a court had declared the patient eligible, and 11% would deliver the medication to the patient’s home and be present when they took it. Less than half (49%) stated they would not want to be involved at all. This suggests that an assisted dying law may be workable in practice.

The poll also found that 55% of GPs wanted the House of Commons to allocate time for a full and comprehensive debate on the issue. When shown a description of the proposed legislation, 34% indicated support for it and 20% were neutral on the issue. 41% indicated they were opposed to the legislation as described, which has a conscience clause included for healthcare professionals who would not want to take part.

The British Medical Association (BMA), which is opposed to a change in the law, cited the potential breakdown of the doctor-patient relationship as their main concern in relation to the Assisted Dying Bill in a briefing to Parliamentarians earlier this year. As well as the Populus survey demonstrating that this concern is not shared by the public, the medeConnect poll revealed that 56% of a sample of UK GPs agreed that medical bodies should adopt a position of neutrality, while only 29% disagreed.

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said:

“We have long known that medical opinion is divided on the issue of assisted dying. It should come as no surprise that patients would trust their doctors more if they supported assisted dying, because this would allow for more honest, open end-of-life discussions, as well as demonstrating doctor’s respect for the wishes and choices of the patient.

“The law has to change. Dying Britons are being forced to take matters into their own hands simply to have control over their own death. Anyone who assists a loved one can face up to fourteen years in prison, and doctors are fearful of even having these conversations. We need to treat terminally ill people with compassion, and as doctors we should be respecting patient choice and allow people to have the death that they want.”

Dr Jacky Davis, Chair of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying, said:

“This survey now confirms that the majority of doctors are either in favour of or neutral about assisted dying.

“I was disappointed when the British Medical Association chose to issue a briefing to Parliament claiming that the relationship between the doctor and patient would be negatively affected if assisted dying was legal, particularly since the BMA has not surveyed patients or its own members about their views on assisted dying. It is telling that when the Canadian Medical Association asked their members and patients about assisted dying they soon moved to a position of support.

“One Briton a fortnight is going to Dignitas, while a further 300 terminally ill people are ending their own lives at home. It would be much safer for all if we had a clear law where doctors could be involved, rather than forcing people to take decisions behind closed doors. It would protect people while also crucially giving terminally ill people choice at the end of their life.”


For all media enquiries please contact Dignity in Dying Press Officer Mickey Charouneau at or 02074797732 / 07725 433 025

Populus Poll
Populus interviewed 5,018 adults aged 18+ online between March 11th & 19th 2015. Interviews were conducted throughout Great Britain and the data weighted to be fully representative of all GB adults.

A 5,000 sample nationally representative poll carries a margin of error of +/- 1.4% at 95% confidence.

medeConnect interviewed 1,000 GPs in England (947) and Wales (53) between May 13th and May 26th. Interviews were conducted with GMC-registered GPs who are members of the community. The study is a geographically representative of the distribution of NHS GPs across England and between England and Wales according to NHS workforce statistics.

Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying
For more information on HPAD please go to:

HPAD Chair Dr Jacky Davis is a consultant radiologist specialising in paediatric and breast imaging at Whittington Hospital, where she has worked since 1982. She has sat on the BMA Council since 2006. Dr Davis has campaigned for an assisted dying law since her brother Kevin’s death, who was suffering with terminal renal cancer and ended his own life. You can read more about Kevin’s story here.

Dignity in Dying
Dignity in Dying campaigns for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life. It advocates providing terminally ill adults with the option of an assisted death, within strict legal safeguards, and for universal access to high quality end-of-life care.

Assisted Dying Law workable in practice
Using data In Oregon since 1997 we can forecast how a change in law would work in the UK:
Approximately 9,300 people a year would discuss the issue of assisted dying. This equates to one discussion per year per GP practice.
Approximately 1,600 people a year would wish to continue with a request, meet the eligibility criteria and receive a prescription for life-ending medication. This equates to one prescription every 5 – 6 years per GP practice.
Approximately 990 people a year would take the prescribed life-ending medication and have an assisted death. This equates to one assisted death every 8 – 9 years per GP practice.

You can read more information on this forecast here.
You can read the latest report from Oregon here.

Canadian Medical Association
The CMA “supports the right of all physicians, within the bounds of existing legislation, to follow their conscience when deciding whether to provide medical aid in dying”. You can read more about the CMA’s change of position here.