Letters

By Anonymous | Drug Topics, August 18, 1997 | Go to article overview

Letters


Anonymous, Drug Topics


Conscience vs. patient rights

Regarding your article "Conscience vs. patient rights: R.Ph.'s refusal to dispense stirs up controversy" (Drug TopTcs, May 19). This is truly a substantive issue. It needs to be openly addressed (soon) by the profession-not only by the (misguided) pharmacist who substitutes his or her personal ethic for the ethic of a health-care professional under the guise of "conscience" but also by the schools of pharmacy, state boards of pharmacy, and state-level professional associations.

Because we are health-care professionals, we [owe] certain duties to patients, such as confidentiality, honesty, and avoiding harm. We also have duties to society, such as distributive justice and protecting the public health. And, finally, we have duties to our health-care colleagues, such as cooperation, monitoring professional practice standards, and reporting unauthorized or inappropriate professional practice. Nothing stated here assigns any rights to the pharmacist.

In the health-provision scenario, the patient has the rights, and the healthcare provider has the duties. This is not a hard concept to grasp; however, it is too often overlooked by my pharmacist colleagues. In providing our health-care services, we must subsume our personal ethic to that professional ethic we all develop as part of our education, experimental training, and professional practice.

Society grants pharmacists certain privileges that come with expectations. If we do not meet these expectations, we have no profession and we have no professional practice. Pharmacists, who believe they cannot identify their professional ethic and perform the duties that society and employers expect, have a duty to inform their employers of this "matter of conscience." When pharmacists cannot reconcile current medical practice and their "conscience," the duty apparent is to avoid harming their patients by flexing this "conscience" muscle. …

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