Monday, December 05, 2005

Morality Monday

Four Walgreens pharmacists have been put on unpaid leave for refusing to fill prescriptions for the morning-after pill. Story here.

So today's question is, should a pharmacist be able to refuse to distribute medication to people because of moral qualms with the medication?

My answer is no. When you become a parmacist, you are entering a field that promotes health. Because the profession supports public health, it seems bizarre to allow non-medical personal opinions to influence your distribution of medications. In effect, the pharmacist is second-guessing a medical doctor's prognosis. "Even though your doctor says you need this medicine, I'm not giving it to you because I think you're a bad person."

In terms of the morning-after pill specifically, the pharmacists decision not to fill prescriptions shows such a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the drug that I question their fitness to be pharmacists at all. They are clearly under the impression that the pill is an abortion pill, which it IS NOT! The pill simply prevents ovulation and thus prevents the egg from being fertilized. It is true that in a small fraction of cases, the pill can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting into the wall of the uterus, but in this respect the morning-after pill is no different from regular birth-control pills, pills which these pharmacists regularly distributed.

I recognize that there is a principled position that is opposed to both the morning-after pill and regular birth control, and though I disagree with the position, I respect it as a consitent position based on the opinion that life begins at conception. However, I have no respect for these pharmacists who are betraying their own ignorance by opposing just one and not the other. We should be very concerned that these people have any role in our public health system.

Comments welcomed and encouraged.


Blogger warm fuzzy said...

iNo. Period.

When I went into hospitals for my Rape Crisis job, there would actually be doctors who would refuse to prescribe the morning after pill to the victims becuase of religious reasons, not only that, but they would refuse to get a doctor who would prescribe the pill.

Like Fishfrog said, this is not an abortion pill. It is birth control - roughly the same as taking 4 of your birth control pills at once.

11:27 AM  
Blogger warm fuzzy said...

I just posed this question to my boss and she thinks they should be able to refuse filling the prescription. After I explained to her the process by which these pills work, she agreed that refusal seemed wrong, but did say that there should be a limit on the number of times someone can get the pill.

When asked if a limit should be put on on the number of times one could refil a birth control perscription, she said no.

Interesting. When I pressed further, she said that she doesn't think people should be able to get a quick fix and should be more careful when planning to have sex. She said she knows several people who jump into sex w/o a thought about the consequences, and people need to learn that sometimes there are consequenses.

If we go on the assumption that everyone using the morning after pill is irresponsible, I wonder why we would want them having babies in the first place.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Fishfrog said...

That's a strange but common argument against the morning-after pill. I think its a bad idea to use an unwanted pregnancy (and the resulting baby (or abortion)) as punishment for what some consider poor behavior. That seems a bit wrong to me.

12:50 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Allowing a baby to be a lesson may teach responsible behavior to the pregnant lady (a position which I find odiously paternalistic), but this completely ignores the effect on the baby. The baby, totally innocent, gets fucked by being in this situation.

9:08 PM  

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