C7 - End-of-life communication and ethical decision-making


Organised by the FIP Health and Medicines Information Section and the FIP Ethics Expert Group


Maria Allinson (Ethics Expert Group, UK) and Lindsay McClure (FIP Health and Medicines Information Section, UK)


Pharmacists as healthcare providers are, on occasion, confronted with the need to communicate with patients who are approaching end of life. There are challenges and issues that pharmacists need to reflect on and act upon when such a situation arises. What we communicate is important, but the way in which we communicate is also of the utmost sensitivity and importance. Pharmacists also need to be aware of and competent in handling ethical issues related to end-of-life decision-making.

Euthanasia in particular is a concept that not all pharmacists know about or can agree with. Some countries have euthanasia well embedded in their healthcare systems, while others are yet to legalise this practice in their healthcare systems. In both cases, pharmacists need to be aware of their own right to conscientious objection and weigh that against patients’ rights in end-of-life decision- making.

This session will provide a platform for pharmacists to learn about issues relating to end-of-life decision-making, gain communication skills and awareness around the topic of euthanasia, and be asked to reflect on these aspects of end-of-life decision-making as they relate to pharmacy practice.


09:00 – 09:10

Introduction by the chairs

09:10 – 09:45

  1. Death and dying: How do healthcare professionals manage and what are the issues for pharmacists?

Sami Isaac (The University of Sydney, Australia)

09:45 – 10:20

  1. Communication: What to say to someone who is dying?

Wilma Göttgens (Radboud University Medical Centre, USA)

10:20 – 10:40 Coffee/tea break

 10:40 – 11:15

  1. End-of-life decision-making: The tension between spirituality, pain, rights of patients and the role of healthcare providers

William Zellmer (American Society of Health-System Pharmacists — ASHP, USA)

11:15 – 11:55

  1. Facilitated discussion

Attendees will be asked to distribute themselves among tables, labelled “for moral objection” or “against moral objection” or “what do you say to someone who is dying?”

11:55 – 12:00

Conclusion by the chairs

Learning Objectives

At the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. Analyse the complex ethical/practical issues relating to end-of-life;
  2. Challenge perspectives surrounding end-of-life care and euthanasia;
  3. Investigate contemporary ethical issues facing pharmacists in palliative care and euthanasia;
  4. Dispute the right of the pharmacist to conscientious objection and the conditions entailed.

Type of session: Application-based