Janelle Jones, PharmD
Janelle Jones, PharmD (530)368-2103
January 2, 2021
An interview with Janell Jones, PharmD
by Martha Turner
If you are in need of filling your prescription for Medical Aid in Dying medications, Janell
Jones, PharmD, at Gold Country Compounding in Auburn California, is an extraordinary
pharmacist to work with. She has been offering this service since California’s End of Life
Options Act came in to law in 2016 and she received her first request soon after that.
She provides heart-felt, respectful and thorough counseling for the dying patient and
family members, in person or over the phone. She deeply believes that a person with a
terminal illness has the right to make this decision. Her first patient taught her that he
was not “choosing to die” as the cancer had made that decision for him. He was,
however, choosing WHEN he would die. Janell can be reached at (530) 368-2103 for
any questions you may have about this essential end of life service.
We first learned about Janell Jones, PharmD in 2019, when we heard there was a
pharmacist, just down the road in Auburn, who was able to fill a prescription for Medical
Aid in Dying (MAID). This was good news because prior to this the only pharmacy we
knew about was located in Berkeley which is quite a distance from our community.
Since then, Full Circle has had two clients who have made use of Janell’s services.
These families have so appreciated the respect and support she provided.
Janell has been a pharmacist since 2011 and her undergraduate degree was in
chemistry. Early on she became interested in the art of compounding medications and
took additional elective classes in this specialized practice. In 2016, soon after
California’s End of Life Options Act was made into law, a patient approached her to fill
his prescription for his Medical Aid in Dying medications. Janell explored the ethical,
legal and practical aspects of providing this service with her pharmacy team and all
agreed with and supported the concept. This first patient had a profound effect on Janell
when he told her he was not “choosing to die” as the cancer had made that decision for
him. He was, however, choosing when he would die. She believes, as do we at Full
Circle of Living and Dying, that a person has the right to make this decision.
Janell explained why this medication has to be “made from scratch” which essentially is
what compounding medication is about. It requires special licensing for the pharmacy
for the handing of the raw material. It is not possible to simply use the tablet forms of the
medications. This is because the number of pills needed to reach the needed dosage
would be enormous because of the large amount of fillers and binders that tablets are
The formula used for MAID continues to evolve as time goes by. The original
medication was a lethal dose of Seconal which required 70+ tablets! This was very hard
for a person to take and the cost became exorbitant, up to $4000! Currently the
compounded formula includes an anti-nausea medication, taken an hour before a
powerful dose of digitalis to slow the heart, followed by a combination of diazepam,
propranolol and morphine sulfate in doses that will bring on death. These medications
are currently not covered by Medi-Care or most private insurance companies. The
current cost is between $400-$500.
The person taking the medication goes into a deep and peaceful coma prior to the heart
slowing, finally stopping, and the transition to the other side is complete. It is important
that the GI tract is functioning in order for the medications to be absorbed. However, for
a person unable to swallow, there is a formula that can be administered rectally.
Currently it is not lawful to receive medications for MAID by the IV route. The future
holds hope for this as it would be more humane for some persons, however this is not
expected anytime soon. Janell explained that additional licensing is required for a
pharmacy to be “sterile” in order to mix IV medications of any type. There is more work
to be done as our society evolves around the matter of death and we give thanks for the
work Janell does.
Additional information about Medical Aid in Dying can be found elsewhere on the Full
Circle of Living and Dying website under the tab End of Life Plan of Care and then the
tab California End of Life Options Act. The trail blazers for the legislative efforts
nationwide are the dedicated people working with Compassion and Choices whose
website is: https://compassionandchoices.org/ California specific information and
support can be found at https://endoflifechoicesca.org/ You are also welcome to call
and talk to one of the End of Life Doulas who volunteer with Full Circle!