Pharmacy and Religion

Recently in the UK there have been a number of incidents where Pharmacists have refused to sell contraceptives to adults because of their religious views.

Examples here:

The pill

Muslim pharmacist
The General Pharmaceutical Council allows this in its code of conduct according to this article.

This is crazy, once again religion is being forced upon people in our secular society. This even seems to apply to prescribed drugs, which is ridiculous.

This needs to be overturned at once.

US dopers, would it be possible to do this in the US?

I know that Illinois has a law forbidding pharmacists to refuse to dispense contraceptives and stating they must be provided without undue delay or hassle. If they do happen to be out of stock, the pharmacist must explain alternative purchase options and/or give back the prescription.

According to a report from last year (PDF warning) by the National Women’s Law Center, 15 states have laws in place to try to prevent the situation of pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions. 5 states have laws explicitly allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions based on their beliefs. There were at the time quite a few bills in session on both sides of the equation for various states.

These are nut job pharmacists. No normal company will do that and stand over it.

People will just stop buying stuff from these shops and they will go eventually out of business.

If a pharmacist has problems selling drugs, he shouldn’t be a pharmacist.

Just imagine a vegitarian working in a butchershop and refuses to sell meat, I don’t think many people will buy meat of that butcher and will just go to the next one.

How about a butcher that refused to sell only veal, based on his opposition to how veal are treated as they are raised?

That would seem a better analogy, since the pharmacist refuses to sell not all medicine, but only contraceptives; the butcher refuses to sell not all meat, but only veal.

Pretty much no one prescribes veal for medical purposes these days. :slight_smile:

Thankfully the U.S. has no general code in place that permits pharmacists to use their personal beliefs to interfere in the patient-physician relationship. It’s lamentable that a sprinkling of states permit pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for so-called morning-after pills, but I have not heard of any significant problem with refusal to fill prescriptions for birth control medications.

And I (shockingly!) take the opposite tack: it’s unfortunate to imagine a system that feels the government can mandate such actions. I have no problem at all with, say, Eckard or Rite Aid firing a pharmacist for refusing to dispense certain medications; Eckard and Rite Aid have every right to define the job duties for the employees they hire.

But if Joe Independent sets up Joe’s 7-12 Convenience Store and Pharmacy, and then refuses to dispense birth control… that ought to be Joe’s right.

But how does the law in the US stand on religious discrimination. Imagine a Rite Aid employee refused to dispense a certain medication because of their beliefs, and was fired afterwards for said action. Would that (ex)employee have a claim for discrimination?

So if, say, all the pharmacies in town refused to dispense medicine to black people you’d have no problem with that? And yes, that’s a relevant example since religion being used to mandate racism isn’t at all rare.

Jehovasa Witeness are not allowed blood transfusions, so you just had an accident out side this pharmacy and the clerk refuses to sell blood to the medic because of religous believes and the person is dying outside the door… you think, that’s a good idea?

If they won’t do their job, they need to find something else.

JC Penney sold Eckerd to Rite Aid a few years back, and its stores have all been subsumed into the Rite Aid franchise, so it won’t be firing pharmacists anytime soon.

Anyway, if you feel the government has no business regulating pharmacists, why do you believe it should be allowed to regulate physicians?

But as soon as Joe Independent takes advantage of government licensing, he makes himself subject to government regulation.

I’ve got no issue at all with Joe deciding in his convenience store not to sell condoms, or beer, or cigarettes, or porn, or anything he chooses not to sell. However, I also see no problem with the government requiring as part of a license that a particular product be available.

In practice, I would think there is nothing stopping Joe Independent doing what you want him to be allowed to do. As far as I know, nothing mandates a pharmacist to keep stocks of products. I don’t think there is anything stopping a pharmacist simply not keeping birth control pills in stock, or Plan B, or any other contraceptive item. Where this comes up is where the product is in stock, and an employee chooses not to offer it.

To change the situation slightly, Bricker, do you have a problem with the government requiring that if the product it in stock, and the pharmacist chooses to make it available to some, the pharmacist should have to make it available to all with a prescription for it? Could the government legitimately stop Joe Independent refusing to provide contraception to women under 25 for example, or to interracial couples?

IIRC, most state pharmacy licensing boards do require pharmacies to stock certain specific items in specific quantities, but I think they’re all “necessities” (insulin, certain antibiotics, anticoagulants, etc.) but I could be wrong.

However, a Washington appeals court has ruled that pharmacists are required to stock and dispense Plan B. I presume the requirement has been written into its licensing rules.

This page shows which states have laws requiring pharmacists to stock and dispense emergency contraception.

Interesting. I wonder how it is enforced. I’m all in favor of such rules personally, I just wasn’t sure they could be practical.

No, because it’s not a “reasonable accommodation” for the employer to permit non-contraceptive selling pharamacists on their staff.

I would have a problem with that, oddly enough. Because we already have a law that addresses racial discrimination in places of public accommodation.

We don’t have an analogous law (well, some states do; we don’t have a analogous federal law) mandating the sale of contraceptives. we have said, as a nation, that our public policy is to forbid racially-based discrimination. We haven’t said any such thing about individual pharmacists and refusal of contraceptive sales.

  1. Pharmacists do not, as a general rule, practice emergency medicine.

This is where your analogy breaks down, because in your example, there are exigent circumstances, where saving a life requires immediate address by qualified people.

You may be unaware that states extensively regulate the qualifications and duties of pharmacists. For example, here’s a list of the rules and regulations applicable in my state. It does not seem unreasonable to me that pharmacists also be required to fill prescriptions properly issued by licensed physicians.

If some pharmacists feel that their religion compels them to make decisions about whether patients deserve particular prescribed medications, they need to find another profession.

But this debate is intended to flesh out what “their job” is, legally speaking. Your fiat pronouncement doesn’t end the debate. Yes, we all agree: if they can’t do their job, they need to find another line of work. Fantastic.

Now – what is “their job?”

And how do you know?

But it does seem unreasonable to me.

Because you say so?

How about those pharmacists move to one of the states that protect their right to work within the confines of their beliefs? Or how about those pharmacists join in the political dialogue to influence any undecided states, and to roll back such requirements in states that have made the wrong decisions? How are those, as alternative options?