Britain's main nurses' organization has dropped its opposition to assisted suicide, as a new poll shows solid support for the right to die.

The Royal College of Nursing says it is adopting a neutral stance on the issue. Doctors group the British Medical Association remains opposed.

Under British law, assisting a suicide is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, but prosecutions are rare.

A survey by Populus published today found 74 per cent of people wanted the medical profession to be able to supervise assisted suicides, although a large majority felt it should be legal only in specific circumstances.

The issue was back in the headlines this month after 85-year-old British conductor Edward Downes and his wife Joan died at a Swiss suicide clinic.