Message to “Activist Pharmacists”: Quit and go to hell

Wednesday, March 30th, 2005 11:46 am by Neal

The last few months have witnessed an increase in stories about Pharmacists who refuse to fill certain prescriptions because the medications violate their personal or religious beliefs. Yesterday’s, Washington Post carried this story, Pharmacists’ Rights at Front Of New Debate which included the following passage:

The trend has opened a new front in the nation’s battle over reproductive rights, sparking an intense debate over the competing rights of pharmacists to refuse to participate in something they consider repugnant and a woman’s right to get medications her doctor has prescribed. It has also triggered pitched political battles in statehouses across the nation as politicians seek to pass laws either to protect pharmacists from being penalized — or force them to carry out their duties.

“This is a very big issue that’s just beginning to surface,” said Steven H. Aden of the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law and Religious Freedom in Annandale, which defends pharmacists. “More and more pharmacists are becoming aware of their right to conscientiously refuse to pass objectionable medications across the counter. We are on the very front edge of a wave that’s going to break not too far down the line.”

Now, I’m not a pharmacist; however, my father is, and I worked in his pharmacy for over three years, so I can claim to know a thing or two about how pharmacies work. I have also interacted with patients who came in to have their prescriptions filled, including, yes, patients who were getting birth control pills. Here’s my highly-opinionated take on this controversy: the medicines that a doctor prescribes to a patient represent part of the patient-doctor relationship. The duty of the pharmacist is to honor this relationship and fill the prescription. There are exceptions; however, such as when the pharmacist determines that the medication will cause physical harm to the patient (for example, a drug interaction with another medication or a reaction to this particular patient that the doctor missed). Also, if the pharmacist suspects that drug abuse is occurring, it is reasonable to not fill the prescription. In these cases, however, the pharmacist will normally contact the physician and make him aware of these issues. This activism gets worse, as the article points out:

Adam Sonfield of the Alan Guttmacher Institute in New York, which tracks reproductive issues [said], “There are even cases of pharmacists holding prescriptions hostage, where they won’t even transfer it to another pharmacy when time is of the essence.”

Supporters of pharmacists’ rights see the trend as a welcome expression of personal belief.

“A welcome expression of personal belief”? From what plane of hell did “pharmacists’ rights” emerge — the “right” to impose their beliefs on a customer? This is incredible! Extend this “right” to other occupations: waiters refusing to serve overweight customers because they are “morally opposed” to obesity as a desecration of “the human body as God’s temple”? Or, clerks who refuse to sell tobacco and alcohol products because they find these morally objectionable. Where does this madness stop?

Refusing to fill a prescription because the pharmacist finds it “objectionable” is itself, objectionable and a betrayal of the profession. Think of the slippery slope here. How long before pharmacists refuse to fill pain medications because they can be abused, or refuse to fill anti-depressant or anti-psychotic medications because of a religous objection to any altering of consciousness? There is no room for Activist Pharmacists in the patient-doctor relationship, and a pharmacists “moral opinions” are irrelevant. Here’s my advice to pharmacists who are so perverted to think that this is somehow their “right”: Quit your damned job and go straight to Hell.

Any questions?

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