Thursday, December 01, 2005


Hooray for Illinois! Walgreen Co. said it has put four Illinois pharmacists in the St. Louis area on unpaid leave for refusing to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception in violation of a state rule. Apparently the governor has put a rule into effect that individual pharmacists cannot refuse to fill prescriptions for emergency contraceptives that are approved by the FDA as long as that store already dispenses any other type of pharmaceutical contraceptive. Other pharmacists, similiarly situated, have claimed that dispensing the contraceptives forces them to violate their religious beliefs.

Let me get this straight, someone has a strong moral, ethical and/or religious aversion to contraceptives (emergency or otherwise) and s/he decides to become a pharmacist?! Apparently somebody was not thinking ahead. If you think that you can become a pharmacist and never have to deal with contraceptives then I have a bridge I want to sell you. That would be like a strict vegan deciding to become a butcher and then refusing to cut up or sell raw meat. Selling birth control as a pharmacist is a foregone conclusion. If you feel that strongly about it, then it's time to rethink your career choice.

You have beliefs, OK I can respect that. You would rather avoid certain aspects of everyday American society because they violate your personal morals - ok duly noted. There are two caveats there. Number one, don't purposely put yourself in a situation where you know that part of your job will require you to do things that you feel compromise those beliefs. Number two, (and here is where a lot of people run into trouble) please don't force your way of thinking on me or anyone else in the general public.

If you don't believe in emergency contraceptives that's fine. Feel free to refuse to use them yourself, take the opportunity to discuss not using them with your spouse. While you're at it, use your right of free speech to explain to others why you feel emergency contraceptives are not a good choice. There are plenty of options for expression here. However, do not sit on your personal moral highground and propose to dictate to others how they will behave in their personal lives just because you have on a white coat and a degree in pharmacology. I don't get to tell you that you have to use contraceptives, and conversly you don't get to tell me that I can't.

I know someone out there is thinking that it's not that big a deal when you consider that the customer can go to another pharmacy. However it IS a big deal. People seeking emergency contraceptives are generally in a high stress situation to begin with. Obviously they have serious concerns about an unplanned pregnancy for whatever reason or they wouldn't be seeking the prescription in the first place. Why add stress to the situation by forcing people to trapse to another pharmacy when exactly what they need and are duly authorized to have by a doctor is sitting on a shelf and the only thing preventing them from getting it is the fact that Mr. or Ms. Morality is on shift tonight?

The same holds true for non-emergency contraceptives. People go to pharmacies close to home and generally fill all prescriptions in the same place. It's a monthly errand which should not be made difficult by someone trying to force their personal beliefs on the consumer.

Also, consider this scenario. A woman is seeking emergency contraception. She lives in a state not as enlightened as Illinois and she is refused at pharmacy "A" because the person on duty there is morally opposed to the pills. The woman proceeds to pharmancy "B" where the same situation unfolds. Then she goes onto "C" and "D" ... Exactly where is the line drawn? How inconvenienced, flustered and stressed must this woman get in order to have her prescription filled just so that those pharmacists can avoid feeling morally compromised in an occupation of their own choosing where they knew this exact moral dilemma would present itself?

Do you see Christian Scientists going to medical school? No. Do you know why? Because their religious tenets provide that prayer trumps medical care. I don't agree with it, but I respect their right to practice their beliefs. I don't see them becoming doctors and then refusing me medical care just because they don't believe in it. Pharmacists, take note.


At 3:13 PM, December 01, 2005, Anonymous eve said...

GREAT post. You are so right on.

The "well, if you don't agree with it, don't dispense it" advice just doesn't work. Maybe if a person is in a metropolitan area, where there's a pharmacy on every corner, perhaps that person could [in theory] shop around to find the pharmacy where all legal medicines are dispensed [as opposed to the pharmacy where only *some* legal medicines are dispensed, which makes so much sense, right?] BUT in small towns where there's only one pharmacy and one pharmacist [and those towns do exist!] it's definitely a hardship to have to drive miles and miles to another pharmacy for an *emergency* prescription.

Not to mention, these drugs are all legal! It seems like the job duties of a pharmacist include dispensing all legal drugs... if someone can't comply with the duties of the job for whatever reason, why do they have such a job?

Again, great post, thanks for talking about this!


Post a Comment

<< Home