Object now to this assault on freedom of conscience of pharmacists

Mar 5, 2017 by

by Peter Saunders, TCW:

What’s in a word – specifically in the words, the ‘right to refer’ or a ‘duty to dispense’? What difference does the one phrase rather than the other make? In the case of proposed ‘new standards for pharmacy professionals’ and ‘behaviour guidance’ which are due to come into effect this year, rather a lot.

Replacing the former with the latter – which is what the General Pharmaceutical Council proposes to do to change the regulations around prescription dispensing  – not only puts the principle of individual freedom of conscience at stake but also raises fundamental questions of medical ethics.

There are only a few days left in which anyone can object.

The question is whether pharmacists should be forced to dispense drugs for what they consider to be unethical practices – like emergency contraception, gender reassignment, abortion or even, should the legislation ever be passed, for assisted suicide?

Or should they retain the right to exercise freedom of conscience by either referring to a colleague or opting out?

Just to take one current example – pharmacists who believe that human life should be respected from the time of fertilisation generally object to dispensing potentially abortifacient drugs like levonelle and ellaOne.

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