Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Pharmacists' Rights -- and Wrongs

"As far as being a health care professional, I don't think I should be injecting my moral values on other people. I'm not a counselor - I don't really think that's my job." Rod Adams, Denver pharmacist

I'm with you Rod. We already have far too many people telling us what to do with our bodies, our souls and our lives. Pharmacists perform a critical health care service; many of us literally couldn't survive without them. But health care decisions are tough enough -- we need a pharmacist working with us, not against us.

Back in the day, you'd go into a pharmacy for a pack of cigarettes and furtively ask the kindly old pharmacist for some condoms. He might even wink at you when handing them over. Times have changed. Now we matter-of-factly buy the condoms and ask covertly for the cigarettes.

Either way, it's hard to imagine a pharmacist telling us: sorry, I won't sell you contraceptives because it's against my religion. Unless you live in Vatican City, it just shouldn't come up. But it already has, and that scares the hell out of me.

The debate is underway, "conscience clause" bills are popping up all over the country, giving pharmacists the right to refuse to dispense the morning-after pill or any kind of contraceptives if they have moral or religious objections. Four states already have the laws in place. More are in the hopper. Only a few progressive states have laws that require pharmacies to fill all prescriptions, and hospitals and clinics to provide information and medication -specifically the morning-after pill- to rape victims.

But we've seen the way the wind is blowing, morality-wise, with the Radical Christian Right in charge. It's knocking over our rights with hurricane force, especially those who are Pro-Choice. And what about the rights of an anti-birth control pharmacist, you ask?

We should respect those rights too. If you own the pharmacy, you have the right to put up a sign: Prescription Contraceptives Not Issued Here. And your customers have the right to go elsewhere. If you work for somebody else, do the job as required or choose to work elsewhere.

Regardless of personal beliefs, prescriptions are legal documents, issued by licensed medical professionals, to be filled by other licensed professionals. And despite what George W thinks, religious convictions don't trump the law. Yet.

Do I believe in the "morning-after" pill or in any kind of contraception, before or after sex? You don't give a damn, I'm just another voice in the chorus. But if I were your pharmacist, you might have to care what I believe -- because I could refuse to sell you potentially life-altering products. And so my religious convictions could have a devastating effect on your health, and your future.

Think about this too: our pharmacist knows more about us than our closest friends. He supplies the medications we take for depression, herpes, hormone replacement, erectile dysfunction, anxiety, yeast and other infections, hemorrhoids, constipation ... the list is endless (pardon the pun) and often very personal. To us. The consumer.

It shouldn't be at all personal to the pharmacist. And it most certainly shouldn't be cause for a moral judgment. He's not a clergyman or a teacher or parent or even a Congressman.

The bottom line: a pharmacist's role is to fill prescriptions, not heaven.



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2 Comments:

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