Pharmacy practice in the domain of assisted dying: A mapping review of the literature

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Woods, Phillip
Schindel, Theresa J
King, Michelle A
Mey, Amary
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Background: The scope and roles of pharmacists worldwide are undergoing dramatic change. Patient-focused care aimed at caring for people that seek medical assistance in dying is among the newest roles. While pharmacists have been involved in medically assisted dying in some international jurisdictions for over two decades, little is known about their actual lived experiences.

Objective: To map the literature concerning pharmacy practice in the assisted dying domain to clarify apparent research gaps.

Methods: A mapping review was preformed following a systematic search of Medline, CINAHL and IPA to locate academic papers and reports relating to pharmacists’ involvement in assisted dying published between 1990 and 2019. Searches included articles in English, French, and Dutch. References and citations of articles were searched to identify additional articles.

Results: A total of 43 articles were selected, including commentaries (n = 26), reports (n = 2), a scoping literature review (n = 1), and empirical studies (n = 14). Most commentaries centered on pharmacists' roles, ethico-legal and moral challenges, and educational concerns in relation to participation. Of the 14 empirical studies, 12 studies were designed around surveys that focused on pharmacists' attitudes, and opinions concerning assisted dying. Other methodologies included thematic analysis of moral dilemmas, experimental design identifying attitudes to sedation at end of life, and analysis of documents such as guidelines, position statements, and standards of practice. Two studies utilized a qualitative research approach. A significant gap was found with respect to research exploring the actual experience of pharmacists’ practice in medically assisted dying.

Conclusion: There is an absence of studies exploring pharmacists’ actual experiences in assisted dying practice. Research involving pharmacists that participate in legally sanctioned assisted dying will facilitate a meaningful understanding of the lived experience of pharmacy practice in this domain.

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Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy
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© 2019 Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Licence, which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, providing that the work is properly cited.
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