Pharmacists' moral stand on contraceptives: Is it right?
Thank you for exposing the outrageous movement of druggists to refuse oral and emergency contraceptives to women ("Culture war hits local pharmacy," April 8).
When women can't get a prescription filled for legal, safe contraceptives because of the religious values of pharmacists, then we have no protection of our health - much less our reproductive choices.
It's one thing for a pharmacy to choose not to stock contraceptives when women can go to another drugstore nearby that does. But what are women who live in rural areas lacking transportation to do if the only pharmacy in town makes this decision? And how, in good conscience, can a pharmacist look a rape victim in the eye and tell her it just doesn't fit with his or her religious values to provide the legal medication to prevent a pregnancy? It is not up to pharmacists to assume that they know why a woman's physician is prescribing oral contraceptives.
Do these same pharmacists refuse to fill prescriptions for Viagra? If not, I think they are not only allowing their religion to step in the way of a job where they knew the requirements in advance. They are committing discriminatory acts against women in general. Men can enjoy sexual activity with the help of medication, but women cannot?
Before entering pharmacy school, the students know that they will be required to fill all kinds of prescriptions. If they have a moral objection, I think they are obligated to choose another career. Become a minister if you want to counsel or "help" young women to make choices that support certain religious beliefs - don't enter the pharmacy or medical professions.
Every medical professional has an obligation to provide the care that meets the needs and demands of his or her patient, and his or her own beliefs come second to that patient.
I object to the condescending tone of medical ethicist Evelyne Shuster, quoted in the article, who seems to think that a pharmacist is just a vending machine.
My father, who was a retail pharmacist for 30 years, spent a lot of time counseling patients about how to use - and not use - their medication. He often had to call a physician to get a prescription changed because the doctor hadn't taken the patient's other medication into account. And he could, and did, spend more time advising patients than many doctors could.
A devout Catholic, he also dispensed birth control - but not cigarettes; his reasoning was that, in our small town where he was the only pharmacist, people could get coffin nails elsewhere but not the pill.
Pharmacists are in the business of filling prescriptions written by doctors. The prescriptions are not for illegal drugs. It's not pharmacists' place to be the drug police. If pharmacists feel that they just cannot fill prescriptions, then they should find work that allows them the religious freedom to act as they wish.
Now, it's birth control, but who's to say it won't be something else later on?
As far as I know, a pharmacy is licensed to dispense pharmaceuticals without making any judgments.
On the other hand, a pharmacy is a private business and can carry whatever products it chooses. If a pharmacy, for whatever reason, decides not to carry product "X" it can simply tell the customer, "We do not carry that item." I don't believe it has to give any reason.
Leonard W. Wolfe
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