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Palliat Med. 2005 Mar;19(2):151-7.

Physician-assisted death: attitudes and practices of community pharmacists in East Flanders, Belgium.

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Department of Medical Sociology and Health Sciences, End-of-life Care Research Group, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Laarbeeklaan 103, B-1090 Brussels, Belgium.


This study investigates attitudes and practices of community pharmacists with respect to physician-assisted death. Between 15 February and 15 April 2002, we sent anonymous mail questionnaires to 660 community pharmacists in the eastern province of Flanders, Belgium. The response rate was 54% (n = 359). Most of the pharmacists who responded felt that patients have the right to end their own life (73%), and that under certain conditions physicians may assist the patient in dying (euthanasia: 84%; physician-assisted suicide: 61%). Under the prevailing restrictive legislation, a quarter of the pharmacists were willing to dispense lethal drugs for euthanasia versus 86% if it were legalized, but only after being well informed by the physician. The respondents-favour guidelines for pharmacists drafted by their own professional organizations (95%), and enforced by legislation (90%) to ensure careful end-of-life practice. Over the last two years, 7.3% of the responding pharmacists have received a medical prescription for lethal drugs and 6.4% have actually dispensed them. So we can conclude that community pharmacists in East Flanders were not adverse to physician-assisted death, but their cooperation in dispensing lethal drugs was conditional on clinical information about the specific case and on protection by laws and professional guidelines.

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