Thursday, April 21, 2005

Pharmacists fill gift orders, not prescriptions for treatments

conscience (noun)

a) The awareness of a moral or ethical aspect to one's conduct together
with the urge to prefer right over wrong
b) A source of moral or ethical judgment or pronouncement
c) Conformity to one's own sense of right conduct
I have to say that I believe that nobody should be forced to take a job in which they are required, in the course of their employment, to do something they find morally objectionable. If you know the routine tasks of a job in accordance with the standard job description for that position would entail (legal) tasks you cannot, in good conscience, perform an employer should be allowed to use that refusal as a legitimate reason for not hiring you and/or for termination of employment.

In order to protect Pharmacists, Karen Brauer's organization, Pharmacists for Life International has set forth as a “Pharmacist's Model Conscience Clause.”

The rights of conscience of any person being a duly licensed pharmacist, who shall object on personal, ethical, moral or religious grounds to the performance of any act in the normal course of professional performance or dispensing, shall be respected.

Further, such a refusal to perform any act or the omission of any act based on such a claim of conscience, shall not form the basis for any claim for damages or any recriminatory or discriminatory action against such a person. Any such person making such a claim of conscience, or who states a willingness or intention to make such a claim of conscience, shall not be denied employment, or discriminated against in any manner related to employment because of such a claim of conscience.
People who believe certain medications are tools of murder and who will under no circumstances fill valid prescriptions for these medications and/or refuse to return or transfer them should not be in a position in which they are required to do so. Brauer, who is quite the producer of Wingnut Butter™, completely misses the point of conscientious objection. PFLI members and their ilk have not been drafted against their will to work in a pharmacy that stocks and dispenses medications you find objectionable, they have chosen to accept a job and work as a dispensing pharmacist at place of employment that fills prescriptions for medications including hormonal contraceptives.

If filling a valid prescription for any particular medication/class of medication is morally objectionable to you (especially if you will not return or transfer a valid prescription) you should not only avoid accepting a job that has filling/transferring of valid prescriptions as part of the routine job description, you should not take a job at any pharmacy that stocks any medication that falls into the category of morally objectionable medications.

People make these decisions every day: a vegan chooses not to become a butcher or go into a field in which (s)he would have to conduct research using animals or uses any animal product; someone who objects to sex outside of marriage does not become a prostitute or embark on a career as a porn star (I guess they could, if they only engage in sexual activity with their spouse on film).

The term conscientious objector was coined to refer to those who refuse to serve in the military due to their moral/religious objection to the bearing of arms which could potential lead to them intentionally being put in a situation in which they have to use weapons in an act of violence against another human being. A CO doesn't get to join the service with stipulations that they get a cushy desk job state-side and never have to worry about being called upon to do what other servicemen are doing. A CO can't be a CO in one war, but not another because (s)he feels it's OK to perform the duties in the war personally considered less objectionable. Just like those in the examples above, a CO is not going to seek employment as a cop due to the possibility of engaging in those activities they consider morally objectionable to the point they could not serve in the military.

Now, as the PFLI folks insist that they can be great dispensing pharmacists but just want to refrain from dispensing contraception, they need to consider limiting their employment to pharmacies that do not stock the medications they will not dispense. If they are legally permitted to refuse to perform a routinely required task at a pharmacy that does fill prescriptions for contraceptive agents and must not be refused a job (or fired) for this refusal of conscience, we have opened the door to forcing other employers to make the same exceptions for employees on religious grounds. Can a Catholic priest who converts to a non-Christian religion refuse to to give communion because he no longer believes in the divinity of Jesus without losing his job as a priest? Should a Rabbi who converts to Christianity be permitted to keep his job and preach the NT as fact at shul? Does an Episcopal priest have a legal right to avoid censure and requirement to recant if (s)he references Druid liturgy?

What PFLI supporters are demanding defies reason. They demand the right to interfere in the practice of medicine (refusal to fill, return and/or transfer valid prescriptions) and engage in evangelical/pastoral activities in the course of their job which is not part of the standard job description for a Pharmacist.

Karen Brauer would have filled a prescription for Viagra happily. "I helped a whole lot of old married men get lucky," she said.

But, if that man's wife came in with a prescription for birth control pills, she would have gotten a very different reaction. If the prescription called for a heavy dose "morning after" contraceptive, she would have refused to fill it. If it was for the traditional monthly pills, she might have filled it, but at a price.

"I'd work on them every month. I'd say, 'Hey, when are you going to get off the pill?' " said the Catholic pharmacist who serves as president of Pharmacists for Life International

They can keep a career as a pharmacist without working at a pharmacy that does not stock contraceptives (they cannot refuse to return valid prescriptions under any circumstances, that is illegal interference in the practice of medicine - but they can post big signs to indicate they do not stock contraceptives on moral principle, which can help them avoid the potential for that problem). Their employment is voluntary, they can accept or refuse any job offered to them and they should refuse any job at a pharmacy that fills prescription for contraceptive agents.

The statement at the bottom of PFLI's “Pharmacist's Model Conscience Clause” explains [emphasis added]:

The Pharmacist's Model Conscience Clause was adopted and approved by the PFLI Board of Directors in 1988. It was the first -- and remains the only -- one of its kind for the profession of pharmacy. It uniquely addresses the needs of pharmacists for recognition of their sincerely held religious, moral and ethical convictions which preclude the misuse of the gift of medications in manners contrary to the God-given dignity of the profession. Nothing less will do.

Any attempt to dilute or weaken the Conscience Clause does a disservice to the profession as well as an injustice to the many pharmacists who have courageously fought to have the Conscience Clause implemented in their workplaces. For standing by their principles, many of these brave professionals have paid the price of ostracism, calumny, vilification, persecution, reprimands, censure and dismissal.

Now these pharmacists may think they're filling some gift order, but the doctors who right the prescriptions and patients who use them consider them healthcare. As for the "brave professionals", they'd be brave if they refused compliance with illegal activities in the course of their jobs. Refusing to perform routine requirements of a job and interfering in the healthcare of a patient is insubordination and a legitimate reason for censure and termination of employment.

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