HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Monday, March 28, 2005

Pharmacists' Rights?

Today, the Washinton Post has a story concerning the behavior of certain pharmacists that refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control and morning-after pills.  The pharmacists argue that dispensing the medications violates their personal moral or religious beliefs.  The Post story reports,

An increasing number of clashes are occurring in drugstores across the country. Pharmacists often risk dismissal or other disciplinary action to stand up for their beliefs, while shaken teenage girls and women desperately call their doctors, frequently late at night, after being turned away by sometimes-lecturing men and women in white coats.

"There are pharmacists who will only give birth control pills to a woman if she's married. There are pharmacists who mistakenly believe contraception is a form of abortion and refuse to prescribe it to anyone," said Adam Sonfield of the Alan Guttmacher Institute in New York, which tracks reproductive issues. "There are even cases of pharmacists holding prescriptions hostage, where they won't even transfer it to another pharmacy when time is of the essence."

I find this type of behavior very troubling for a number of reasons, only one of which is the fact that I have not heard of any pharmacist refusing to fill Viagra, Cialis or other such prescription drugs.  I wonder where this will end - the article discusses how a number of states are considering "conscience clause" laws that would protect pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions that violate their beliefs.   I suggest that perhaps we need legislation that requires a pharmacy to ensure that a pharmacist capable of filling all prescriptions always be on duty so as not to leave a patient without the medical care they require. [bm]

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