Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Target Practice

Target allows its pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for the emergency contraception Plan B, commonly known as the morning-after pill. Some people, primarily stemming from their religious beliefs, do not support use of the morning-after pill, claiming it is a form of abortion (it’s not, but they’re free to believe that). Planned Parenthood has attacked the retailer for disrespecting customers’ reproductive rights, and many have called for a boycott of Target. Target has defended it’s policy, and I agree that they are well within their rights to make this decision.

My comment on this issue is: what would happen to a pharmacy if they didn’t hire someone because they wouldn’t fill prescriptions for the morning-after pill on religious grounds? I’m not a lawyer, but I believe this person would have a case to sue the store for discrimination on the basis of religion. In my opinion, it’s fine if a store doesn’t want to sell the morning after pill, that’s their business (and lost business). But if they want to sell the pill, they have every right to fire (or not hire) employees if they won’t do the job they were hired to do. But they can’t really do that, because anti-discrimination laws have them trapped. Not that anti-discrimination laws don’t achieve some positive results, but this serves as a good reminder of the unintended consequences that occur when the government legislates behavior.


At 8:28 PM, Blogger Christeen said...

Okay McCormick, as a pharmacist I have to comment. In Canada Plan B is currently prescribed by both pharmacists and doctors in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Quebec. Pharmacists in these provinces who object on personal moral/religious grounds to dispensing Plan B, or who are not certified in an Emergency Contraception course to dispense Plan B (becuase it requires a 15 minute consult with the patient including a questionnaire) but who work at a store that dispensee Plan B are obliged under oath to refer a patient to the nearest available pharmacist (which can be the same store if a coworker prescribes it and is on shift as well) or to the nearest pharmacy where Plan B is prescribed that is open. Provincial pharmacy legislation and pharmacy governing bodies allow for pharmacists to refuse to dispense Pan B and other forms of contraception on the CONDITION that the pharmacist must refer the patient to the nearest available ECP service. If the patient believess that not using Plan B puts her in harm, she has the right to hold that belief and must not have stumbling blocks put in her way intentionally by the pharmacist. What I'm saying is this: I think the unfairness of discrimination laws is not the focus of this issue. A pharmacy manager with a non-plan-B-dispensing pharmacist employee on staff can (and should) take action against that staff pharmacist if he/she fails to refer patients to the nearest available service and/or "preaches" to patients. These actions violate the ethical oath all pharmacists take and would have implications for that employee in terms of remaning in good standing as a licensed pharmacist.

There's my rant! :-)

At 8:26 AM, Blogger Scott McC said...

Yay! A rant from the Bluenoser!!

I totally agree with you that the unfairness of discrimination laws is not really the focus of this issue. For me, it's just an interesting side effect of the law coupled with the store policy. As I understand it, there is no requirement here in the States for a pharmacist who will not fill a Plan-B prescription to point the patient in the direction of a pharmacist who will (aiding and abetting abortion, I suppose?). I like that aspect of the provincial law - it allows for pharmacists to uphold their moral values while hopefully allowing patients the stuff they want. The other big difference here in the States is that Plan B is only available with a prescription from a doctor, not only over-the-counter (or "behind the counter" is maybe the correct term). Thanks for your comments, nice to have a professional opinion.

At 11:08 PM, Blogger Christeen said...

And thank you for the clever use of "side effect". hee hee.


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