After a consultation which received over 1,200 responses from its members, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has shifted its position on assisted suicide to one of a neutral stance. The resolution was passed at a meeting of its Council on 24 July 2009.

Dr Peter Carter, the RCN’s Chief Executive and General Secretary has confirmed that its members were divided in opinion, but that the focus continues to be on ensuring the maintenance of the nurse/patient relationship and on adequate investment for appropriate end of life care.

Dr Carter, in acknowledging the diffi culties faced by the profession, stated that, “It is vital that we now commission further work to make sure that nurses receive much-needed guidance around the legal, ethical, regulatory and clinical issues of assisted suicide.”

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has confi rmed: “Despite the RCN’s move to a neutral position on assisted suicide, nurses and midwives are personally accountable for their actions and must act lawfully at all times… Assisting the suicide of a patient is against the law.”