The Royal College of Nursing has declared that it would no more oppose assisted suicide. It is the largest of the medical institutions so far to have adopted a neutral position.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists,The Royal College of Anaesthetists and the The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh are also all neutral on the matter.
AdvertisementThe British Medical Association dropped its opposition to assisted suicide after a debate at its annual representatives meeting in 2005 but switched back the following year after a backlash.
Nine per cent of respondents in a survey by the nursing body were neutral, 40 per cent opposed assisted suicide and 49 per cent supported it, with one per cent not recording a position, Telegraph reported.
Dr Peter Carter, RCN chief executive, said: "Assisted suicide is a complicated issue and this was reflected in the range and variety of responses that we received to our consultation.
"The split in responses shows that there is no overwhelming support among nurses for either opposing or supporting a change in the law on assisted suicide. We fully support the common themes that came through the consultation, namely maintaining the nurse-patient relationship, protecting vulnerable patients and making sure there is adequate investment in end of life care."
Earlier this month an amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill proposed by Lord Falconer to allow people to help a terminally ill person travel abroad to a country where assisted suicide is legal was defeated by the House of Lords.
Currently aiding and abetting suicide is a crime punishable by up to 14 years' imprisonment.
At least 115 people from the UK have travelled abroad to die since 2002 with the rate increasing every year, figures show.