Anaesthetists come out in favour of assisted dying

14 September, 2023

Anaesthetists have come out overwhelmingly in support of assisted dying today, during a poll at Association of Anaesthetists’ annual congress. In doing so, they join many surveys of medical professionals, such as one conducted by the Royal College of Surgeons which showed a majority of surgeons support legalising the practice. Humanists UK welcomes this and urges the Association to listen to its members and pave the way for other medical bodies, by formally coming out in support of assisted dying.

A poll of 224 anaesthetists and other doctors at the Association of Anaesthetists annual congress in Edinburgh has found a clear majority (79%) think that assisted dying is ‘consistent with the principles […] that underpin existing legal end-of-life practices’, with a further 7% of respondents being unsure. Only 14% thought that an assisted death was incompatible with current, legal practices.

The anaesthetists also overwhelmingly agreed that the current alternatives to assisted dying are insufficient for all patients, with 85% of respondents expressing the need for further options. A further 9% said they were unsure, with only 6% of respondents perceiving the current alternatives as sufficient.

This is the latest move in swathes of medical professional bodies changing their position on assisted dying. In June the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) moved to a position of neutrality – despite a majority of survey respondents declaring that the RCS should be supportive of a change in the law to permit assisted dying. In 2021, the British Medical Association ended its opposition to assisted dying and moved to a neutral position, as have the Royal Colleges of Physicians, Medicine, Nursing, and Psychiatrists. 

Humanists UK supports assisted dying for those who are terminally ill or incurably suffering, of sound mind, and who have a clear and settled wish to die.

Humanists UK Assisted Dying Campaigner Nathan Stilwell said:

‘Politicians in the country must now face this reality – medical professionals support a change in the law. Medical bodies such as the Association of Anaesthetists should listen to their own members and come out in support of assisted dying.

‘We hope that soon people in the UK who are terminally ill or intolerably suffering will have the rights they deserve and be able to make choices at the end of their lives. No-one should be forced to experience an unnecessarily painful, drawn out, and undignified death.’


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Assisted Dying Campaigner Nathan Stilwell at or phone 07456 200033.

Read more about a decade of campaigning for the legal right to die – at home and abroad.

Read the ONS study on suicides among people diagnosed with severe health conditions.

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

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