Respond: New Standards Attempt to Force Pharmacists to Dispense Abortion Inducing Drugs

Pharmacist's Right to Not Act Against Their Own Consciences Must be Protected

 

Respond: New Standards Attempt to Force Pharmacists to Dispense Abortion Inducing Drugs

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Respond: New Standards Attempt to Force Pharmacists to Dispense Abortion Inducing Drugs

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) have released a public “Consultation on religion, personal values and beliefs” in which they propose significant changes regarding the ability of a pharmacist to refuse certain services.

The consultation can be found in full here and our response on the right hand side of this page after each question in bold.

Up until now, if a pharmacist were unable dispense certain services, due to their beliefs about the immorality of that service, then they were permitted to refuse to do so provided that they referred the customer to somewhere else which would provide that service.

However, due to the influence of the Secular Medical Forum (SMF) – a branch of the National Secular Society – the GPhC are considering changing the standard to be far more restrictive and intolerant of individual pharmacists.

The GPhC proposes a significant change in emphasis which can be seen most clearly in the following. Previous guidelines talked of the pharmacist's requirement to

"tell relevant health professionals, employers or others if their own values or beliefs prevent them from providing care, and refer people to other providers" (original)

The new guidelines require pharmacists to

"take responsibility for ensuring that person-centred care is not compromised because of personal values and beliefs."(proposed change)

In short, the proposed changes mean that a pharmacist would have to provide abortion inducing drugs against their conscience, or would have to employ someone else who would provide it (an unaffordable cost for many), or could face losing his/her job.

In practice, this means a pharmacist could lose his/her job for refusing to dispense drugs which induce abortion. The proposed changes are not limited to abortion inducing drugs but also include: contraception; fertility medicines; hormonal therapies; mental health and wellbeing services; substance misuse services; and sexual health services.

No medical professional should be forced to dispense drugs intended to end the life of a child in the womb (aside from the fact that no medical professional should be doing this in the first place.)

These proposals are intolerant and entirely unnecessary. Pregnancy is not a disease in need of medical treatment. A woman’s desire not to be pregnant, while often understandable, is a preference and a good medical professional does not simply agree to whatever preference a customer happens to have. S/he will assess the medical need for intervention.

As mentioned the GPhC is open for public consultation on this matter and we’ve written a response highlighting the oppressive nature of this change and the discriminatory effect it will have on pharmacists who recognise that abortifacient drugs do not belong in healthcare.

This will disproportionately affect pharmacists of a religious persuasion, particularly Christians, and we must do all we can to stop it now.

NB. The consultation ends on the 7th March so make sure you reply now!

Please sign our response to the GPhC's consultation.

https://www.pharmacyregulation.org/valuesbeliefs

http://www.secularism.org.uk/blog/2017/02/stop-pharmacies-refusing-presc...

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Response: Consultation on religion, personal values and beliefs in pharmacy practice

Response: Consultation on religion, personal values and beliefs in pharmacy practice

Consultation Questions

People receive safe and effective care when pharmacy professionals:

• Recognise their own values and beliefs but do not impose them on other people [unchanged example]
• Take responsibility for ensuring that person-centred care is not compromised because of personal values and beliefs [revised example]

1. Do you agree with the proposed changes?

No

1a. Please explain your reasons for this

This change is entirely unnecessary and gravely violates the conscience rights of pharmacists with an objection to certain services.

It seems that this legislation will either force pharmacists to deny their own deeply held moral convictions or face disciplinary action and possibly loss of employment. The only other alternative is that pharmacists will have to employ another member of staff who is willing to dispense the service in question, which for many, is an unaffordable cost.

This change therefore, is deeply discriminatory and an injustice against the right to freedom of conscience of pharmacists.

The current system recognises the pharmacist's right to his/her conscience insofar as s/he directs a customer to somewhere else which does provide the desired service.

This is a liberal compromise which has worked for many years as it respects the consciences of pharmacists and the desires of patients as far as possible.

Other healthcare professionals, such as doctors in regard to abortion, retain the right, in law to refuse certain services. It is unclear why the General Pharmaceutical Council is promoting this intolerant change.

2. Does the revised guidance adequately cover the broad range of situations that pharmacy professionals may find themselves in?

No

3. Is there anything else, not covered in the guidance, that you would find useful? Please give details.

The proposal is apparently extremely short sighted and lacking imagination. For example, it is possible that medical abortion pills might be dispensed from pharmacies in the future, and, should assisted suicide become legal in this country. It seems that pharmacists could be forced to dispense these too. We do not know what other services pharmacists might be required to dispense in the future. Such services could well be rejected by many pharmacists but the GPhC’s proposals would apparently force them to dispense whatever service this might be.

4. Will our proposed approach to the standards and guidance have an impact on pharmacy professionals?

Yes

5. Will that impact be:

Mostly negative

5a. Please explain and give examples.

The proposed guidance conflates person-centred care with unhindered access to pharmaceuticals. A person’s “right to safe and effective care from pharmacy professionals” does not mean that they are entitled to dismiss the rights and concerns of pharmacy professionals. Such pharmacists should not be compelled to violate their own consciences.

The proposed changes undermine the freedom of religion or belief for pharmacists – as protected by the Equality Act 2010 and freedom of thought, conscience and religion as outlined in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights – by forcing them to live out their beliefs privately without it impacting upon their actions or choices.

Not only might this force pharmacists out of work but will act as a deterrent for other who might want to enter the profession.

6. Will our proposed approach to the standards and guidance have an impact on employers?

Yes

7. Will that impact be:

Mostly negative

7a. Please explain and give examples.

It seems likely that will have to face legal action (under Article 9 of the Human Rights Act 1998) as some pharmacists sue for loss of employment or forced violation of conscience. For an employer, in an effort to accommodate the beliefs of an employee with a conscientious refusal, s/he may hire additional employees. This is an unnecessary, and for many, an unaffordable cost.

8. Will our proposed approach to the standards and guidance have an impact on people using pharmacy services?

Yes

9. Will that impact be:

Mostly negative

9a. Please explain and give examples.

This consultation emphasises the need for “person-centred care”. Yet, through the change which the GPhC is proposing, there could arise a situation where a person is less inclined to use the services of a pharmacist precisely because they recognise that the pharmacist might not be being treated with the same respect as them.

The ethical consumer might be concerned about the poor treatment of the pharmacist in respect to his/her conscience.

10. Do you have any other comments?

The GPhC should promote an “opt-in” system whereby individual pharmacies/pharmacists agree that they will dispense some or all of the services mentioned. Pharmacies can then make clear to their customers what they offer and what they do not offer.

[Your Name]

Respond: New Standards Attempt to Force Pharmacists to Dispense Abortion Inducing Drugs

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