Thursday, March 31, 2005

Pharm & Faith

Ryne McClaren has a thought-provoking piece on the recent controversy surround the refusal of some pharmacists to fill prescriptions for birthcontrol pills, and particularly the so-called "morning after" pills. It's an issue that pits the rights of the consumer to obtain legal, prescribed drugs, against the rights of the pharmacist to follow his/her own conscience. Ryne's analysis is excellent, so go read that first and come back.

OK. One aspect that Ryne doesn't mention directly is the pharmacist-owner vs. the pharmacist-employee. Our view is that the owner of the store has an absolute right to decide what to stock and sell in that store. This is true whether the decision is based on moral grounds or simply economic grounds (e.g. 'this item doesn't sell well'). Good customer relations, as Ryne said, requires making this choice known to local doctors and patrons in advance, and suggesting alternative sources. This is just what would be done when the non-supply is a pure economic decision.

The pharmacist-employee is a different story, however. Imagine a bartender refusing to serve alcohol or a fastfood employee refusing to "supersize" meals. It is not up to individual employees to decide for themselves which aspects of their work they will or will not carry out (barring any legal issues with the tasks). If a pharmacist, on moral grounds, does not want to dispense the products sold by his/her employer, he can attempt to persuade the employer not to offer that product. Perhaps the employer will be persuaded, or will be able to accomodate the employee. If not, and the pharmacist simply cannot bring himself to dispense the product, he should find another job, start his own pharmacy, or change careers.

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