UK doctors file legal challenge against Royal College of Physicians euthanasia poll

Four British doctors have filed a legal challenge against the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) accusing the College of using an illicit means to force the organisation to abandon its longstanding opposition to euthanasia.

The RCP announced that it would conduct a poll of its members on euthanasia in January. This attracted great controversy by requiring a 60% ‘super-majority’ in favour of any outcome or else the College would change its stance to ‘neutral’. The four doctors have said this move is unlawful on the basis that it is “unfair, irrational, and a breach of legitimate expectation.”

The RCP, which represents more than 35,000 doctors, has long been formally opposed to the legalisation of euthanasia. In 2014, 57.6% of its membership opposed a change in the law would legalise assisted suicide. However, its latest poll aims to remove the College’s formal opposition to such a legislative change.

The group of doctors have argued that use of a ‘super-majority’ vote on such issues is without precedent in professional organisations in the UK. They have said that it appears to be a tactical move to give a strong boost to the campaign to change the law on assisted suicide.