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New guidelines from General Medical Council UK on providing medical records

New guidelines from the General Medical Council (GMC) for the first time make clear that doctors will be able to provide medical records to patients who want them to travel abroad for an assisted suicide without being struck off: handing over records to patients who then use them to take their own life is “too distant” from encouraging a suicide to risk their fitness to practise being called into question. Campaigners for assisted suicide said the new guidelines provided “much needed clarity” and would bring an end to cases of doctors refusing to hand over medical records for fear tat they could then be accused of assisting a suicide.

The law over how far doctors could go to help someone who wanted to die remained – despite the guidance from the DPP in 2010 – in question until this long-awaited guidance issued by the GMC yesterday. 

Dignitas, the Swiss clinic which allows terminally ill people to end their lives, requires medical proof of their condition before allowing them to proceed.

Anyone has a legal right to access to their medical records under the Data Protection Act but uncertainty over whether providing this would amount to assisted suicide has prompted some doctors to refuse. The new GMC guidance to doctors makes clear that, if approached for advice from someone intent on ending their life, they must say only that it is against the law to help.