Pharmacists may refuse euthanasia drug to docs


Almost half of all doctors at assisted suicide clinics have been confronted with pharmacists who do not want to help with euthanasia requests, according to research from the tv-program Always Something (Altijd Wat).

Pharmacists who either don't believe in euthanasia for ethical or religious reasons often refuse to assist in controversial euthanasia requests. In these cases it could concern a patients who are suffering from dementia, or have lived 'a full life' or are psychiatric patients.

For these reasons, pharmacists will make the decision not to be of help to doctors. "A pharmacy is not a kiosk where you can quickly get some deadly substances", says pharmacists association KNMP.

Dr. Evert Hendriksen, however, doesn't see it in such simple terms. "During a euthanasia process I am constantly tested as doctor. Beforehand by the SCEN-doctor and afterwards by the testing commission. Often I am busy for months. And if you have then weighed everything extraordinarily carefully, the pharmacist comes suddenly at five minutes to twelve with the message: just don't do it. While he hasn't seen the patient. Sometimes they don't even open the door for me."

Dr. Willem Spiers criticizes pharmacists for taking on the role of doctor, which he finds redundant seeing as there is already a SCEN-doctor as well as a clinic doctor involved.

Pharmacists, however, have the right to refuse medicine, also in the case of euthanasia. Pharmacists are not listed in the euthanasia law. Only a doctor can be held responsible.

Annemieke Korikx, pharmacist at the KNMP Medicinal Information Center says that euthanasia is a complicated issue. "You do have to investigate what is wrong. Blindly trusting is asking too much. With controversial euthanasia requests, doctors also differ in opinion. Those differences are also there with pharmacists. If you don't agree, you can't go through with it. It is after all a case of life or death."