Saturday, April 02, 2005

Conscience Claws

(Originally published on 3/29/05 @ The American Street.)

Sometime ago, here at American Street, I noted the Conscience Clause trend amongst pharmacists. Withholding prescriptions most often because they assert birth control pills kill embryos, they have become a worriesome growth industry of the religious right. Legislatures across the states are working on ways to deal with it; some more interested in protecting the pharmacists, some the patients. As usual with this sort of thing, women are the victims, and especially women in sparsely-populated rural areas with few alternate options.

And here they come again:

"The American Pharmacists Association recently reaffirmed its policy that pharmacists can refuse to fill prescriptions as long as they make sure customers can get their medications some other way.
"We don't have a profession of robots. We have a profession of humans. We have to acknowledge that individual pharmacists have individual beliefs," said Susan C. Winckler, the association's vice president for policy and communications. "What we suggest is that they identify those situations ahead of time and have an alternative system set up so the patient has access to their therapy."
The alternative system can include making sure another pharmacist is on duty who can take over or making sure there is another pharmacy nearby willing to fill the prescription, Winckler said. "The key is that it should be seamless and avoids a conflict between the pharmacist's right to step away and the patient's right to obtain their medication," she said."
Sounds reasonable enough. Unless your transportation problems make it difficult to go to another pharmacy, or there is no other pharmacist on duty, or time is of the essence. But even that is not satisfactory for some:

"Brauer, of Pharmacists for Life, defends the right of pharmacists not only to decline to fill prescriptions themselves but also to refuse to refer customers elsewhere or transfer prescriptions. "That's like saying, 'I don't kill people myself but let me tell you about the guy down the street who does.' What's that saying? 'I will not off your husband, but I know a buddy who will?' It's the same thing," said Brauer, who now works at a hospital pharmacy."
It might be time to visit the pharmacists' Code of Ethics . Here's a few points:

I. A pharmacist respects the covenantal relationship between the patient and pharmacist.
...a pharmacist promises to help individuals achieve optimum benefit from their medications, to be committed to their welfare, and to maintain their trust.
II. A pharmacist promotes the good of every patient in a caring, compassionate, and confidential manner.
...A pharmacist is dedicated to protecting the dignity of the patient. With a caring attitude and a compassionate spirit, a pharmacist focuses on serving the patient in a private and confidential manner.
III. A pharmacist respects the autonomy and dignity of each patient.
...In all cases, a pharmacist respects personal and cultural differences among patients.
VI. A pharmacist respects the values and abilities of colleagues and other health professionals.When appropriate, a pharmacist...refers the patient. A pharmacist acknowledges that colleagues and other health professionals may differ in the beliefs and values they apply to the care of the patient.
VIII. A pharmacist seeks justice in the distribution of health resources.When health resources are allocated, a pharmacist is fair and equitable, balancing the needs of patients and society.
But obviously those things don't apply to people on a first name basis with God.

Trust me on this: they will not rest until they own you.

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