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Open letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

Healthcare professionals have written to the Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP about significant developments in the assisted dying debate

Dear Secretary of State,

As members of many different healthcare professions we wish to draw your attention to significant developments in the assisted dying debate.

This year the British Medical Association carried out the largest survey of UK medical opinion on this issue that has ever been conducted. It found that 50% of doctors now personally support law change, compared to 39% who do not.

Last year, following a survey of its members, the Royal College of Physicians adopted a neutral position on assisted dying, which brought it into line with the majority of members of the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges – as well as the Royal College of Nursing – who do not oppose law change.

There is clearly growing recognition amongst our colleagues that the current laws around choice at the end of life in the UK are flawed. We know that many people feel no other option but to travel overseas for an assisted death, others take matters into their own hands at home and more still die, suffering, in a manner that they would not wish. While we strongly support increased funding for palliative care services, we know that even the best care is not capable of eradicating all suffering and therefore these problems will not go away.

Current laws around choice at the end of life in the UK are flawed.

We note that public opinion remains consistently and overwhelmingly in favour of reform. An increasing number of legislators around the world – including in the USA, Australia and Canada – have found ways to craft safeguarded assisted dying laws for their citizens. New Zealand is set to follow suit and other countries such as Ireland are beginning the process of legislation while the UK is being left behind.

This debate is important and timely and while clinicians have a role to play our professional bodies no longer ‘provide cover’ for Parliament to look the other way. Amongst these signatories, as in wider society, there exists a range of personal beliefs on assisted dying and there are differing views on what legislation may ultimately look like, but we are all clear that the status quo is simply not fit for purpose. We implore Parliament to examine it as a matter of urgency.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Sam H Ahmedzai FRCP FFPMRCA
Professor Peter Armstrong FMedSci FRCR FRCP
Professor Sue Atkinson CBE MB BChir BSc MA FFPH
Professor Dinesh Bhugra CBE DSc(Hon) PhD FRCP FRCPE FRCPsych FFPHM FHKCPsych(Hon) FACPsych(Hon) FAMS(Singapore) FKCL MPhil
Professor Sir Nick Black FRCPE FRCS
Professor Martin Bobrow CBE FRCP FMedSci FRS
Professor Carol Brayne CBE FMedSci
Dame Fiona Caldicott FRCP FRCPsych FRCGP FMedSci
Dr Peter Carter OBE PhD MBA FRCN FRGP(Hon) Ad eundem RCSI
Professor Sir Graeme Catto FRSE Hon FRCSE FRCP(Lon, Edin & Glasg) FRCGP FFPM FMedSci FKC
Dr Kailash Chand OBE FRCGP
Harriet Copperman OBE SRN
Dr Jocelyn Cornwell
Professor Lindsey Davies CBE FFPH FRCP
Dr Jacky Davis FRCR
Sir Terence English KBE FRCS
Professor Aneez Esmail MFPHM MRCGP FRCP
Professor Sir Sam Everington MBBS MRCGP Barrister OBE
Professor Dame Lesley Fallowfield DBE BSc DPhil FMedSci
Professor Dame Clare Gerada MBE FRCGP FRCPsych FRCP
Professor Philip Graham FRCP FRCPsych FRCPH(Hon)
Professor Sian Griffiths OBE FRCP FHKAM
Professor Sir Andy Haines MB BS MD FRCP FRCGP FFPH FMedSci
Dr Hilary Jones MBE
Professor Sir Peter Lachmann ScD FRS FRCPath FMedSci
Dr Rosemary Leonard MBE MA MB BChir MRCGP DRCOG
Professor Richard Lilford CBE FMedSci DSc(Hon) PhD FRCOG FRCP FFPH FRCGP(hon)
Professor Brian Little MA DO FRCS FRCOphth
Dr Elisabeth Macdonald FRCR MA
Professor Dame Jill Macleod Clark DBE PhD BSc RGN FQNI FRCN
Professor David Mant OBE FRCP FRCGP FMedSci
Professor Alan Maryon-Davis FRCP FFPH FRCGP
Professor Neena Modi FRCP FRCPCH FFPM FMedSci
Dame Yvonne Moores DBE FRSH RGN CIMgt
Dr Rajesh Munglani FFP MRCA
Professor Adrian Newland CBE FRCP FRCPath
Sir Christopher Paine FRCP FRCR
Dr Colin Murray Parkes OBE MD FRCPsych LLD
Professor Sir Michael Rawlins GBE FBPhS FMedSci
Dame Lesley Rees DBE FRCP
Professor Sir Peter Rubin BM BCh MA DM FRCP FMedSci
Dr Richard Scheffer MB ChB DMRT M.SC(PallMed)
Professor Debbie Sharp OBE BM BCh FRCGP
Dr Mike Shooter CBE FRCPsych
Dr Robin Stott FRCP FFPH
Professor Raymond Tallis FMedSci FRCP FRSA
Professor Sir John Temple ChM DSc FRCS(Ed&Eng) FMedSci
Professor John Wass MA MD FRCP
Professor Dame Jenifer Wilson‐Barnett BA MSc PhD SRN FRCN DBE
Dr Graham Winyard CBE FRCP FFPH