Hospital pharmacists to administer drugs for assisted dying

Paul Hayes

11/06/2019 10:32:10 AM

Pharmacists at the Alfred Hospital will mix the doses to be used when Victoria’s assisted dying legislation comes into effect on 19 June.

Alfred Hospital
Alfred Hospital pharmacists will dispense the medication to eligible patients, and collect anything of the remaining dose. (Image: Tracey Nearmy)

In addition to mixing the drugs, the three Alfred Hospital pharmacists will be responsible for delivering the lethal dose to be taken by eligible voluntary assisted dying patients, according to a report in The Age.
‘No matter where they are in Victoria, [the pharmacists] will dispense the medication to them. If there is any medication remaining, they will collect that and take it back,’ Victoria’s Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said.
The drugs used to mix the dose are already legal in Australia.
According to the report, the majority of eligible patients will drink the dose in their own homes at a time of their choosing. Under certain circumstances, those physically incapable of swallowing will be able to take the substance via a doctor-assisted intravenous drip.
Victoria’s assisted dying laws come into effect on 19 June. The state’s model includes strict criteria:

  • Only adults with decision making capacity, who are suffering and have an incurable, advanced and progressive disease, illness or medical condition that is likely to cause death within six months (or 12 months for people with neurodegenerative conditions) can access the scheme.
  • A person may only access voluntary assisted dying if they meet all of the strict eligibility criteria, make three clear requests and have two independent medical assessments that determine they are eligible.
  • The request must always be initiated by the person themselves, with health practitioners treating the person who raise the issue subject to unprofessional conduct investigations.
The Age also reported that almost 90 doctors across Victoria – including a number of GPs, as well as palliative care practitioners and specialists – have begun mandatory training required to undertake voluntary assisted dying.
While some estimates have the number of Victorian patients who could make use of the new laws at between 150 and 200 in the first year, Minister Mikakos said it could be as low as 12.
A Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board has also been established to review each case.

Alfred Hospital assisted dying euthanasia

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