Professionals, Conformity, and Conscience
Dresser, Rebecca, The Hastings Center Report
Laws, regulations, and ethical codes often address conflicts between personal beliefs and workplace demands. Such conflicts are common in the health setting, where work is intimately connected to matters of life and death, privacy, and dignity.
In the latest conflict attracting attention, pharmacists have expressed moral beliefs that interfere with women's reproductive health needs. Journalists and others have reported cases of individual pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for emergency contraceptives. Because emergency contraception can act to block implantation of a fertilized egg, people who believe in protection of human life after conception find it morally objectionable.
State officials have responded in two ways. Some have endorsed legal requirements that protect women's access to the drugs; others have sought to protect pharmacists' conscientious objection rights. The American Pharmacists Association "recognizes the individual pharmacist's right to exercise conscientious refusal and supports the establishment of systems to ensure patients' access to legally prescribed therapy without compromising the pharmacist's right of refusal." (1)
In this and other contexts, we see disagreement over when to protect the professional's freedom to reject on moral grounds a practice that is ordinarily required of the professional. The dispute over pharmacist refusals and workplace demands offers an opportunity to examine this broader question.
The Varieties of Conscience Claims
Health care workers may seek to be excused from several medical services on grounds of conscience. Many laws protect health professionals from employment penalties …
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Publication information: Article title: Professionals, Conformity, and Conscience. Contributors: Dresser, Rebecca - Author. Journal title: The Hastings Center Report. Volume: 35. Issue: 6 Publication date: November-December 2005. Page number: 9+. © 1999 Hastings Center. COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group.
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