11 July, 2005

The Case of the Constrained Pharmacist

Independent, local newspapers are great. With so much of the media today swallowed up by huge corporations, it's good to get more of a "grassroots" sort of voice.

I read Greensboro's Rhino Times on a more or less regular basis. Although I'm not quite in lockstep with the overly (and openly) conservative bias, it's coverage of local issues is usually quite good. But I do have to take issue with them now and again.

Like this exchange between a reader and the editor (John Hammer) dealing with the brouhaha over pharmacists refusing to fulfill certain perscriptions due to alleged moral issues:

John, come out of your pervasive vegetative state for just a moment. You do not hire a pharmacist to dispense religious dogma. You hire him to dispense drugs.

Editor’s Note: No one is asking a pharmacist to dispense religious dogma, but a pharmacist should not be forced to dispense drugs that violate his own religious beliefs, just like a restaurant owner should not be forced to serve alcohol.
Ummm...a particularly inapt analogy. Very few pharmacists actually own the pharmacies at which they work. A better analogy might be, "a pharmacist should not be forced to dispense drugs that violate his own religious beliefs, just like a waiter or waitress should not be forced to serve alcohol." But, of course, that doesn't serve John's purpose

But at a restaurant that does serve alcohol, I daresay any waiter or waitress who refuses to serve it to a paying customer on alleged "moral grounds" would likely be in danger of losing his/her job. I know that if I owned the restaurant, they surely would be.

The point is, no person should be forced into doing something that is against their religious or moral beliefs. However, particular job functions do unfortunately require particular actions. "Pharmacist" requires the dispensing of prescription drugs based upon a doctor's specifications and subject to state and national law and the procedures of the particular pharmacy. If the owner of the pharmacy has determined that birth control or other medications are to be dispensed at the pharmacy, then the pharmacist is in dereliction of his/her job responsibilities to refuse to dispense them.

Pharmacists who find themselves unable to dispense certain medications would be well advised to seek alternate employment, commensurate with their high moral standards.

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