MPS’s response to draft GMC guidance for allegations about a doctor’s involvement in assisted suicide
24 Apr 2012
Greater clarity is needed to give doctors the confidence to explain to their patients what advice they can give
We welcome the introduction of this guidance on assisted suicide. This is a complex issue and area of law and healthcare professionals need, and deserve, greater clarity so they can fulfil their roles to the fullest.
When dealing with end of life issues doctors want to be able to respond to the needs of patients and families in a sensitive and confidential way. The fear of criminal prosecution or professional proceedings mean many doctors will refuse to provide advice to patients who are in a vulnerable position.
They also feel pressured into disclosing information or suspicions about their patients to the police or other authorities as they fear criticism if they fail to report a potential assisted suicide. This could undermine the quality of the doctor-patient relationship at a time when patients are most in need.
MPS wants the law to be clear, unambiguous and accompanied by practical guidelines and definitions
Greater clarity is needed to give doctors the confidence to explain to their patients what advice they can give and how their decisions are guided by their legal duties and professional responsibilities.
Our members currently face a dilemma in wanting to pursue appropriate professional practice and their uncertainty as to what extent they can do that; they are concerned with working within the law, but also maintaining their patients’ confidentiality and protecting the doctor-patient relationship. MPS wants the law to be clear, unambiguous and accompanied by practical guidelines and definitions.
Therefore, we welcome the GMC’s guidance for the investigation committee and case examiners as it can send a clear signal of the GMC’s expectations of doctors’ professional responsibilities around issues of assisted suicide. We encourage the GMC to carefully monitor this issue and update its guidance as and when specific cases are examined that raise further issues.
Read the full consultation response >>
For more information, see the attachment on the right or contact Shelley McNicol, MPS Head of Communications or another member of our policy team.