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Surgeons to review opposition to assisted dying

The Royal College of Surgeons of England will review its opposition to assisted dying. The RCS, which covers England and Wales, will look to survey its members to inform the review. Humanists UK welcomes this review and hopes that the RCS will follow the lead of many other medical bodies in changing their position to neutral.

In September 2021, the British Medical Association adopted a position of neutrality, following a survey of its members. The survey revealed that half of all doctors support changing the law, and would prefer a law inclusive of both the terminally ill and incurably suffering.

Polling shows that the majority of UK doctors and nurses support assisted dying reform. In 2019, the Royal College of Physicians similarly adopted a neutral stance. The Royal Society of Medicine, the Royal College of Nursing, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists all also either support or have a neutral stance.

A few others, notably the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), remain opposed to a change in the law. The RCGP conducted a review in 2021, and found a majority wanting it to move from opposition to neutrality and support. But it decided to stay opposed, because a plurality backed opposition. The matter is now the subject of a judicial review by Dignity in Dying and the Good Law Project.

The Royal College of Surgeons last agreed a position in 2014. When it surveys its members, Humanists UK encourage its supporters who are surgeons to take part.

Humanists UK Assisted Dying Campaigner Nathan Stilwell said:

‘This is a welcome move from the Royal College of Surgeons. It has the potential to be another victory in the campaign for terminally ill and incurably suffering people’s right to a legal, safe, and compassionate assisted death. We hope that surgeons will vote to respect their patients’ dignity, autonomy, and choice over  how, where, and when they want to die.’


For further comment or information, media should 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 Royal College of Surgeons’ assisted dying policy review.

Read more about our campaign to legalise assisted dying in the UK.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 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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