"Death was a blessing" – should it ever be pharmaceutically hastened? British pharmacists' views
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Objectives: To investigate the views and experiences of British pharmacists in physician‐assisted suicide (PAS) and voluntary active euthanasia (VAE) and to examine whether differences in views were associated with personal characteristics.Method: A postal questionnaire was mailed to a random sample of 500 registered pharmacists, with addresses in England or Wales, stratified according to sex and community/hospital working environments. Main outcome measure: Pharmacists' reports of their views and experiences of PAS and VAE. Results: Completed questionnaires were received from 295 respondents (response rate: 59%). The majority of respondents (83%) reported that at times, a person had the right to choose their own manner of death; 61% and 53% thought that there should be changes in the Law to legalise VAE and PAS, respectively. If it were legal to do so, 63% stated that they would be willing to dispense medication for VAE and 64% for PAS. However, only 45% agreed that the pharmacist should have a role in advising the prescriber on the choice and dose of drugs used. Sex, age, and years registered as a pharmacist were not found to be significantly associated with views on the practices of PAS and VAE. However, pharmacists who reported having a religion were significantly less likely to favour such practices. On comparing the views of community and hospital pharmacists, community pharmacists were significantly less likely than expected to want to be informed about the intended purpose of lethal drugs.Conclusion: In this survey, while over half of British pharmacists did not disagree in principle to the legalisation of VAE and/or PAS, they were less supportive of direct involvement in such procedures. Religion was a discriminatory factor associated with negative views of VAE and PAS. The significant minority of pharmacists not wanting to know the purpose of drugs they suspected might be for PAS or VAE is not in accordance with professional accountability, reflecting the complex and sometimes conflicting legal and moral aspects of such practices when deciding upon a course of action.
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