Poll: would you dispense Voluntary Assisted Dying drugs?

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Debate about Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation is dividing the country… but what do pharmacists think?

Victoria’s controversial Voluntary Assisted Dying bill – which would introduce legislation that would be the most “conservative” of its type in the world – has passed the State’s lower house, bringing the process one step closer.

Under the legislation, pharmacists would be part of the process, supplying lethal medicines in a locked box to eligible patients.

It’s as yet uncertain what these medicines would be, though The Australian suggests that these would be “a tailored, individual dose of lethal drugs put together by specialist compound chemists” instead of internationally used drugs such as Nembutal and Seconal.

The Guild and PSA are still formulating their responses to the legislation, which still needs to pass Victoria’s upper house. The scheme would not start for another 18 months, giving stakeholders time to establish relevant processes.

However, the Guild’s Victorian president, Anthony Tassone, stressed that it would be very important that pharmacists and other involved health professionals – as well as patients themselves – participate in the process only on a voluntary basis.

“Pharmacists should not be compelled to provide the medication for voluntary assisted dying if they do not wish to,” he told the AJP this week.

Pharmacists are already debating the issue in our comments section.

John Wilks says that he’s concerned that “whilst the key word might be voluntary the darkness of the human heart has shown repeatedly in human history to be very capable of circumventing ‘best intentions’”.

Jenny Madden is worried about where the line will be drawn in terms of voluntary participation.

“How does voluntary stand in the case where a patient presents to the pharmacy where I am working with a script for the locked box,” she asks. “Can I simply refuse, pleading none in stock, or will I be obliged to facilitate the request, by directing the patient to a pharmacy which will provide the service?”

And pagophilus is concerned about protections becoming “diluted over time”.

However Jarrod McMaugh points out that the Victorian legislation has more robust protections built in, with “severe penalties for health practitioners who do not report their participation in a VAD service to the VAD Board”.

And “the legislation enshrines the right of the pharmacist to remove themselves from participating via conscientious objection,” he says.

We’d like to know what you think. Whether you’re in Victoria or not, would you consider supplying these medicines under the Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation or similar, were it introduced and passed in other states? Please feel free to continue the debate in comments below.

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  1. Billy Birdy

    Handling and use of Lethabarb is a daily part of veterinary practice. It’s gets soul destroying after a while especially when euthanising animals that could be helped if owners could or would pay for treatment. If I had the option I wouldn’t use it but it’s impossible to work in companion and not euthanise animals. It would be nice to have the choice. I’d recommend it be voluntary for pharmacists.

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