Magazine article Drug Topics

'I Object'

Magazine article Drug Topics

'I Object'

Article excerpt

APhA endorses refusal to dispense on moral grounds

The American Pharmaceutical Association is now on record supporting a pharmacist's right to refuse to dispense a prescription for religious or moral reasons. The action came almost a year after a California pharmacist made national headlines when he refused to dispense an Rx for postcoital contraception and made no effort to help the patient find someone else who would. Last year, APhA's house of delegates adopted a policy supporting the individual decisions of R.Ph.s on the issue of physician-assisted suicide, rather than taking a stand for or against participation.

APhA's latest action now shifts to state legislatures and boards of pharmacy the responsibility to provide conscientious objectors with the needed legal protections from employers and patients. In several states, including Ohio and Wisconsin, anti-abortion pharmacists have been trying to get conscience clauses enacted. A survey of state pharmacy practice acts last year by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy failed to find any.

After the first session of the APhA house of delegates last month in Miami Beach, a policy committee tinkered with its original "conscience clause" and removed a reference to the "professional responsibilities" tied to the refusal to dispense. The committee came back with language backing creation of "systems" that allow a patient to get a legally prescribed product without compromising a pharmacist's conscientious objection. After a brief debate, the delegates at the second session adopted the changes by a voice vote.

The full text of the pharmacist conscience clause now reads: "APhA recognizes the individual pharmacist's right to exercise conscientious refusal and supports the establishment of systems to ensure patient access to legally prescribed therapy without compromising the pharmacist's right of conscientious refusal. APhA shall appoint a council to serve as a resource for the profession in addressing and understanding ethical issues."

The task is now up to the state boards of pharmacy to give conscience clauses a home, said David Brushwood, a lawyer and professor of pharmacy health-care administration at the University of Florida school of pharmacy.

"Any comprehensive policy has to go through the state boards of pharmacy," Brushwood told Drug Topics. …

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