Physician-assisted Suicide

Ongoing Challenges for Pharmacists

Jennifer Fass and Andrea Fass


Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2011;68(9):846-849. 

In This Article

Guidance and Resources

Efforts to legalize physician-assisted suicide in other states seem to be growing. Pharmacists should stay abreast of any pertinent state legislation. DWDA bills died during the 2010 legislative sessions in Hawaii and New Hampshire. In Massachusetts, a DWDA bill was discussed at the statehouse in February 2010, with testimony presented in favor of and against the legislation, but no immediate action was taken. In Connecticut, a supreme court judge rejected the request of two physicians to prescribe lethal doses of medication in the case of Blick v. Connecticut in June 2010.[28]

Pharmacists participating in physician-assisted suicide may enhance their knowledge of pain management and palliative and end-of-life care through Purdue Pharma's Medical Education Resource Catalog, which contains free web-based courses and resources.[29] Additionally, the American Academy of Pain Management Learning Center maintains a comprehensive resource library, including clinical tools and continuing-education courses on pain management and palliative care.[30]

The Death with Dignity National Center (DDNC) is one of the leading organization advocates of physician-assisted suicide. DDNC's mission is "to provide information, education, research, and support for the preservation and implementation of the Oregon Death with Dignity law" and to advocate for a DWDA in all 50 states.[31] Leaders of DDNC wrote the Oregon DWDA, and DDNC was instrumental in the passage of Washington's DWDA. The organization began an advocacy campaign in Washington in April 2005 after identifying it as the state most likely to implement a DWDA.[31]

The Oregon Death with Dignity Act: A Guidebook for Health Care Professionals is a comprehensive resource that outlines the legal requirements of physician-assisted suicide in a clear and concise format.[2] Pharmacy schools should incorporate the topic into the curriculum, so that students are prepared once they enter the profession. More research is needed, including surveys of pharmacists (e.g., those in Washington State) to determine their attitudes on the practice, surveys to determine how pharmacy students' views on physician-assisted suicide might differ from those of medical students, and other studies to assess pharmacists' attitudes on the practice and its impact on the profession.


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