Death with Dignity: The Developing Debate Among Health Care Professionals.

Research paper by Brittany N BN Oakman, Hope E HE Campbell, Lindsay M LM Runk

Indexed on: 07 Jun '15Published on: 07 Jun '15Published in: The Consultant pharmacist : the journal of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists


The right-to-die movement-known variously as death with dignity, physician-assisted suicide, or aid in dying-remains controversial. The recently publicized death of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, who chose to end her life through physician-assisted suicide, forced many health care professionals to evaluate or re-evaluate their stance on the issue. Currently, only five states have aid-in-dying laws, but many others have bills under consideration. The legalized process for physician-assisted suicide has a strict set of procedures that physicians and patients must follow to ensure the competency and safety of all parties involved. Opposition against legalizing physician-assisted suicide encompasses more than simply moral, religious, or ethical differences. While some individuals believe that physician-assisted suicide gives patients autonomy in their end-of-life care, health care professionals also may have reservations about the liability of the situation. Pharmacists, in particular, play a pertinent role in the dispensing of, and counseling about, the medications used to assist patients in hastening their death. It is imperative that pharmacists be aware of the intended use of the particular medication so that they can make informed decisions about their participation and ensure that they perform all the necessary steps required to remain compliant with the laws or statutes in their jurisdiction. This practice places an increased burden on pharmacists to evaluate their opinion on the concept of death with dignity and whether or not they want to participate.