The Right to Refuse: A Call for Adequate Protection of a Pharmacist's Right to Refuse Facilitation of Abortion and Emergency Contraception

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  I. INTRODUCTION 
 II. SECTION I: ANTI-REPRODUCTION PILLS AND THE 
     PHARMACIST'S ROLE 
     A. The Pills 
     B. The Pharmacist's Role 
III. SECTION II: THE NATURE OF THE MORAL DILEMMA 
     A. Abortion Viewpoints 
     B. Emergency Contraception: Abortion? 
        1. The Science of Life's Beginnings: The 
           Impetus to the Debate 
        2. The Teachings of the Roman Catholic 
           Church 
     C. The Pharmacist's Professional Ethical 
        Obligations 
 IV. SECTION III: THE POTENTIAL RAMIFICATIONS OF 
     CHOOSING CONSCIENCE 
     A. Employment Ramifications 
     B. Tort Liability 
     C. Disciplinary Action 
  V. SECTION IV: THE INADEQUACY OF CURRENT 
     PROTECTIONS OF A PHARMACIST'S CONSCIENCE 
     A. Religious Discrimination 
     B. Wrongful Discharge 
     C. Current State Conscience Clause Statutes 
 VI. SECTION V: SOLUTION 
VII. CONCLUSION 

I. INTRODUCTION

The ability to convince an individual, through the art of honest persuasion, of the righteousness of a belief is celebrated, however, in failure of such persuasion, compelling that person to act contradictory to their retained ideal is detestable. The free will to reject a movement or disagree with a practice is the sort of liberty this Nation was founded upon, yet today the potential exists that many in the pharmaceutical profession will be forced into behaviors repugnant to their basic standards of goodness and morality. The proliferation of abortive and contraceptive drug therapies has thrust many pharmacists into roles as facilitators of practices they oppose on fundamental levels without a corresponding ability to opt out of such action.

When a patient desires drug therapies that, in the eyes of the pharmacist, are likely to destroy an unborn human life, the pro-life pharmacist is left in an unsettling position: accommodate the patient and breach basic moral principles or adhere to conscience and risk liability and disciplinary action. (1) Unlike physicians and nurses, who are protected by legislation passed in the wake of abortion's legalization, (2) pharmacists who follow their conscience by refusing to dispense controversial medications or referring to a willing pharmacist have no reliable legal or professional basis to prevent or rectify retaliatory action by employers, patients, and peers. (3) Solving this predicament is especially difficult in light of the pharmacist's professional ethical duty to promote the patient's best interests. (4)

The purpose of this Note is not to argue for or against either the pro-life or pro-choice positions. The purpose of this Note is to shed light on a serious moral dilemma that faces many pharmacists today, to call for universal acceptance in the pharmacy profession of a right of conscience, and to suggest adequate state and national legislative measures that would protect and prevent pharmacists from having to act contrary to their basic moral convictions.

Section I provides background regarding present day abortive and contraceptive drug therapies and the role of the pharmacist in providing such medications. Section II is presented to provide some perspective and background as to moral belief regarding abortion and emergency contraception (EC) and how such a belief may conflict with a pharmacist's professional duties. The discussion of the tension between moral and professional duties illustrates that the beliefs regarding abortion and EC of the pharmacist who chooses conscience over professional duty are genuinely fundamental and deserve respect. Section III illustrates the detrimental consequences that choosing conscience could wreak. Section IV sheds light on the inadequacy of current common and statutory law that could feasibly protect the pharmacist's moral convictions from retaliation or liability. Finally, Section V proposes that professional pharmaceutical organizations lead the way to recognizing a true right of conscience, which would eventually result in universal legislation protecting against all potential ramifications of choosing conscience. …