RACGP backtracks on voluntary euthanasia endorsement

Press/Media: Expert Comment


Article describing the new RACGP position statement about voluntary assisted dying. The article also explains why the college position has shifted since the president made statements in 2017.


Voluntary Assisted Dying RACGP Position Statement

Period26 Jun 2019

Media contributions


Media contributions

  • TitleRACGP backtracks on voluntary euthanasia endorsement
    Degree of recognitionNational
    Media name/outletAustralian Doctor News
    Media typePrint
    DescriptionThe RACGP has walked back its endorsement of Victoria’s voluntary assisted dying scheme, nearly two years after its former president called for it to be adopted nationwide.

    The college has declared it has no official stance on whether voluntary euthanasia should be legalised, saying the issue is a matter for society and government.

    In a position statement released on Tuesday, the college said it was acutely aware its members held differing views on euthanasia and that all GPs needed legal protection to choose whether to participate in any scheme.

    But it added that many dying patients experienced “great suffering” and that some may believe their meaningful lives had ended following the loss of dignity and independence. “For some patients, a sense of control over the manner and timing of death can bring comfort,” it said.
    Associate Professor Mark Morgan, chair of the RACGP’s expert committee for quality care, said the new statement reflected the need to help GPs navigate euthanasia laws without explicitly supporting or opposing them.

    “I don't think it's the college's decision to have a unified view on whether or not voluntary assisted dying is right or wrong,” Professor Morgan told Australian Doctor.

    “If you think of the college of GPs as a community with 42,000 members, some members will have one opinion and other members will have another opinion.”

    The college’s statement came in stark contrast to comments made by former president Dr Bastian Seidel following the passage of assisted dying laws in the Lower House of the Victorian Parliament in October 2017.

    At the time, the RACGP issued a press release where Dr Seidel said the laws satisfied “all professional and ethical concerns” related to the contentious issue and that Victoria’s bill could be used as a blueprint for nationally consistent laws.

    “The RACGP is satisfied that appropriate safeguards for patients, relatives, and medical and health practitioners have been put in place in the legislation,” he said.

    Almost two years on, Professor Morgan admitted the college’s official position had been ambiguous and said the former president’s statement was “quite a personal statement rather than a formal college position statement”.

    “I think we can say that this position statement that we've just put out is the official statement of the college and it supersedes any previous statements which were made by the then president,” he said.

    Professor Morgan said the RACGP had learned from the 2017 incident and that it had undertaken an extensive consultation process to ensure the organisation’s position was “crystal clear”.

    “I suspect if you've got personal statements but from the figurehead of an organisation, there's a risk that that process will be shortcutted in order to answer the demand for an opinion before we've had a chance to [consider] what all the consequences are.”
    Producer/AuthorKemal Atlay
    PersonsMark Morgan