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Old 03-30-2005, 11:27 AM   #1
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being a pharmacist is against my religion, or, more signs of theocracy

Pharmacists' Rights at Front Of New Debate
Because of Beliefs, Some Refuse To Fill Birth Control Prescriptions
By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 28, 2005; Page A01


Some pharmacists across the country are refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control and morning-after pills, saying that dispensing the medications violates their personal moral or religious beliefs.

The trend has opened a new front in the nation's battle over reproductive rights, sparking an intense debate over the competing rights of pharmacists to refuse to participate in something they consider repugnant and a woman's right to get medications her doctor has prescribed. It has also triggered pitched political battles in statehouses across the nation as politicians seek to pass laws either to protect pharmacists from being penalized -- or force them to carry out their duties.

"This is a very big issue that's just beginning to surface," said Steven H. Aden of the Christian Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom in Annandale, which defends pharmacists. "More and more pharmacists are becoming aware of their right to conscientiously refuse to pass objectionable medications across the counter. We are on the very front edge of a wave that's going to break not too far down the line."

An increasing number of clashes are occurring in drugstores across the country. Pharmacists often risk dismissal or other disciplinary action to stand up for their beliefs, while shaken teenage girls and women desperately call their doctors, frequently late at night, after being turned away by sometimes-lecturing men and women in white coats.

"There are pharmacists who will only give birth control pills to a woman if she's married. There are pharmacists who mistakenly believe contraception is a form of abortion and refuse to prescribe it to anyone," said Adam Sonfield of the Alan Guttmacher Institute in New York, which tracks reproductive issues. "There are even cases of pharmacists holding prescriptions hostage, where they won't even transfer it to another pharmacy when time is of the essence."

That is what happened to Kathleen Pulz and her husband, who panicked when the condom they were using broke. Their fear really spiked when the Walgreens pharmacy down the street from their home in Milwaukee refused to fill an emergency prescription for the morning-after pill.

"I couldn't believe it," said Pulz, 44, who with her husband had long ago decided they could not afford a fifth child. "How can they make that decision for us? I was outraged. At the same time, I was sad that we had to do this. But I was scared. I didn't know what we were going to do."

Supporters of pharmacists' rights see the trend as a welcome expression of personal belief. Women's groups see it as a major threat to reproductive rights and one of the latest manifestations of the religious right's growing political reach -- this time into the neighborhood pharmacy.

"This is another indication of the current political atmosphere and climate," said Rachel Laser of the National Women's Law Center in Washington. "It's outrageous. It's sex discrimination. It prevents access to a basic form of health care for women. We're going back in time."

The issue could intensify further if the Food and Drug Administration approves the sale of the Plan B morning-after pill without a prescription -- a controversial step that would likely make pharmacists the primary gatekeeper.

The question of health care workers refusing to provide certain services first emerged among doctors, nurses and other health care workers over abortions. The trend began to spread to pharmacists with the approval of the morning-after pill and physician-assisted suicide in Oregon, with support from such organizations as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Pharmacists for Life International, which claims 1,600 members on six continents. Its members are primarily in the United States, Canada and Britain.

"Our group was founded with the idea of returning pharmacy to a healing-only profession. What's been going on is the use of medication to stop human life. That violates the ideal of the Hippocratic oath that medical practitioners should do no harm," said Karen L. Brauer, president of Pharmacists for Life, who was fired from a Kmart pharmacy in Delhi, Ohio, for refusing to fill birth control prescriptions.

No one knows exactly how often that is happening, but cases have been reported across the country, including in California, Washington, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Texas, New Hampshire, Ohio and North Carolina. Advocates on both sides say the refusals appear to be spreading, often surfacing only in the rare instances when women file complaints.

Pharmacists are regulated by state laws and can face disciplinary action from licensing boards. But the only case that has gotten that far involves Neil T. Noesen, who in 2002 refused to fill a University of Wisconsin student's birth control pill prescription at a Kmart in Menomonie, Wis., or transfer the prescription elsewhere. An administrative judge last month recommended Noesen be required to take ethics classes, alert future employers to his beliefs and pay what could be as much as $20,000 to cover the costs of the legal proceedings. The state pharmacy board will decide whether to impose that penalty next month.

"He's a devout Roman Catholic and believes participating in any action that inhibits or prohibits human life is a sin," said Aden of the Christian Legal Society. "The rights of pharmacists like him should be respected."

Wisconsin is one of at least 11 states considering "conscience clause" laws that would protect pharmacists such as Noesen. Four states already have laws that specifically allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions that violate their beliefs. At the same time, at least four states are considering laws that would explicitly require pharmacists to fill all prescriptions.

The American Pharmacists Association recently reaffirmed its policy that pharmacists can refuse to fill prescriptions as long as they make sure customers can get their medications some other way.

"We don't have a profession of robots. We have a profession of humans. We have to acknowledge that individual pharmacists have individual beliefs," said Susan C. Winckler, the association's vice president for policy and communications. "What we suggest is that they identify those situations ahead of time and have an alternative system set up so the patient has access to their therapy."

The alternative system can include making sure another pharmacist is on duty who can take over or making sure there is another pharmacy nearby willing to fill the prescription, Winckler said. "The key is that it should be seamless and avoids a conflict between the pharmacist's right to step away and the patient's right to obtain their medication," she said.

Brauer, of Pharmacists for Life, defends the right of pharmacists not only to decline to fill prescriptions themselves but also to refuse to refer customers elsewhere or transfer prescriptions.

"That's like saying, 'I don't kill people myself but let me tell you about the guy down the street who does.' What's that saying? 'I will not off your husband, but I know a buddy who will?' It's the same thing," said Brauer, who now works at a hospital pharmacy.

Large pharmacy chains, including Walgreens, Wal-Mart and CVS, have instituted similar policies that try to balance pharmacists' and customers' rights.

"We obviously do have pharmacists with individual moral and ethical beliefs. When it does happen, the pharmacist is asked to notify the manager that they have decided not to fill the prescription, and the manager has the obligation to make sure the customer has access to the prescription by another means," said Tiffany Bruce, a spokeswoman for Walgreens. "We have to respect the pharmacist, but we have to also respect the right of the person to receive the prescription."

Women's advocates say such policies are impractical, especially late at night in emergency situations involving the morning-after pill, which must be taken within 72 hours. Even in non-urgent cases, poor women have a hard time getting enough time off work or money to go from one pharmacy to another. Young women, who are often frightened and unsure of themselves, may simply give up when confronted by a judgmental pharmacist.

"What is a woman supposed to do in rural America, in places where there may only be one pharmacy?" asked Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, which is launching a campaign today to counter the trend. "It's a slap in the face to women."

By the time Suzanne Richards, 21, finally got another pharmacy to fill her morning-after pill prescription -- after being rejected by a drive-through Brooks Pharmacy in Laconia, N.H., one late Saturday night in September -- the 72 hours had long passed.

"When he told me he wouldn't fill it, I just pulled over in the parking lot and started crying," said Richards, a single mother of a 3-year-old who runs her own cleaning service. "I just couldn't believe it. I was just trying to be responsible."

In the end, Richards turned out not to be pregnant, and Pulz was able to obtain her prescription last June directly from her doctor, though she does not think she was pregnant, either.

"I was lucky," Pulz said. "I can sympathize with someone who feels strongly and doesn't want to be involved. But they should just step out of the way and not interfere with someone else's decision. It's just not right."
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Old 03-30-2005, 11:37 AM   #2
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But they probably wouldn't have any problem giving a 60 something old man Viagra.

If they can't do their job they should quit or be fired.
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Old 03-30-2005, 12:28 PM   #3
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will this sort of nonsense ever end?

and the bitch of it all is that they refuse to transfer prescriptions. who the fuck gives them the right to do that?

"they should quit or be fired."
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Old 03-30-2005, 12:31 PM   #4
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Re: being a pharmacist is against my religion, or, more signs of theocracy

Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
"Our group was founded with the idea of returning pharmacy to a healing-only profession. What's been going on is the use of medication to stop human life. That violates the ideal of the Hippocratic oath that medical practitioners should do no harm," said Karen L. Brauer, president of Pharmacists for Life
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Old 03-30-2005, 12:33 PM   #5
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better take those condoms off the shelves while they're at it.
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Old 03-30-2005, 12:54 PM   #6
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"Our group was founded with the idea of returning pharmacy to a healing-only profession. What's been going on is the use of medication to stop human life. That violates the ideal of the Hippocratic oath that medical practitioners should do no harm," said Karen L. Brauer, president of Pharmacists for Life
For a pharmacists he's not very educated.
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Old 03-30-2005, 01:00 PM   #7
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Re: Re: being a pharmacist is against my religion, or, more signs of theocracy

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Originally posted by shrmn8rpoptart

this is a theological argument, not a medical one.

let's not mix the two.
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Old 03-30-2005, 02:20 PM   #8
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I don't know why people would go into that career if they knew there could be things that were morally objectionable to them. Granted the morning after pill is recent, but how long has the regular Pill been around?

However I'm sure there are plenty of pharmacists with religious beliefs who would strongly disagree w/ these people and who would never refuse to fill a prescription.

There have been cases like this in the last few years when women who have been raped have had their prescription for the morning after pill refused-talk about adding insult to injury
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Old 03-30-2005, 02:20 PM   #9
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Originally posted by Irvine511
Brauer, of Pharmacists for Life, defends the right of pharmacists not only to decline to fill prescriptions themselves but also to refuse to refer customers elsewhere or transfer prescriptions.

"That's like saying, 'I don't kill people myself but let me tell you about the guy down the street who does.' What's that saying? 'I will not off your husband, but I know a buddy who will?' It's the same thing," said Brauer, who now works at a hospital pharmacy.
If this is truly what he believes, then he's also morally obligated to destroy all stocks of birth control and 'morning-after' pills at his workplace, and anywhere else he can access for that matter. They've only one use, after all. Oh yeah, but wait--that would be vandalism, and then he might lose his job! Well, OK, maybe the Holocaust of the Unborn isn't quite serious enough to risk scaling back his own standard of living. On the other hand, when it comes to the anonymous women who come to his counter, whose situations he knows nothing about--hey, make 'em pay for their vile lives of hedonism and selfishness!

What a hypocrite. I used to regard these kinds of statements as sincere expressions of a deep moral commitment, until the suspiciously selective scope of the 'resistance' put up by people professing said commitment made me realize it was really just a social control agenda cloaked in a lot of rhetorical hot air about slaughter and genocide.
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Old 03-30-2005, 04:32 PM   #10
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So where is the religio-state institution commanding the pharmacists to stop selling these?
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Old 03-30-2005, 04:46 PM   #11
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Theocracy? The sky is falling?

I think pharmacists who don't want to do the job they're employed to do should find another job.

I also think there's a huge opportunity for pharmacists who find the use of certain drugs unethical to open their own pharmacies. It's called niche marketing and they would have quite a market.
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Old 03-30-2005, 04:57 PM   #12
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If I had sex with a girl, the condom broke and I ejaculated in her with no other form of birth control, and she went to a pharmacist with a prescription for the morning after pill, and the pharmacist rejected it and refused to transfer it to someone else, I'd go down to that pharmacy with a 9-iron and a knife, and I'd kill that bastard.

Nobody has the right to decide other people's lives. Certainly not something as life-altering as a pregnancy. NOBODY.

I don't give a flying fuck if you believe in God, Allah, Buddha, or some magical leprechaun that lives in the tail of Halley's Comet. You DO NOT force pregnancy on someone that you don't even know based on your own personal convictions.

It's tantamount to a rapist saying in court "Well I know she's pregnant, but that's too bad, because I believe very strongly that I have a right to knock her up."

No. This is unacceptable.

If you can't fill a damn prescription, get the fuck out of the pharmacies. I don't give two shits what you believe in, and I don't give one shit for what your God tells you is right, you have no right to make life-altering decisions on this scale for someone you don't even know.
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Old 03-30-2005, 06:09 PM   #13
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Amen, Dave C.

You KNOW what the political goals are here when the pharmacists "ONLY" REFUSE to TRANSFER to someone else who does, rather than just personally refusing to.

On another level, this is like being on any other job and being able to choose which customers you can help and which you can't. If you work with the general public..it's not an option. If you don't like the way a person looks and refuse to help him based on that, then get the frig out of that job.

Or else, they should build special pharmacies that specialze in "life" prescriptions only, so that those espousing the "Culture of Life" don't have to mingle socially with thier liberal inferiors, and better yet, their children won't have contact with their contaminating influence either. After all, don't many of the radical evangelicals want to not have cntact with "the world" and associate only with fellow Christians? (I am one myself and left 3 churches like this.)

What really distresses me is how much media attention this is getting, and positive at that. No mention of it being "controversial." All stories written in a positive or neutral light. It should be treated the same way we treat the labeling of non-organic produce, or warning lables about bioengineered food. Shows you who REALLY controls the media. Amazing how that slogan has been taken up so fast. Quote unlike the battle over using "African-American" in the media.

Where have all our "Culture of Life" supporters gone in this thread?


Problem is, the quailty of care might drop at those places noticably. And others will notice this.

I suppose, too, that you all are aware of the "Catholic charity" movement that has already taken hold at several state hospitals. Funding has been denied for some that distrubute any birth-control lit, etc. Or a patient can choose a "life only" health plan that leaves out abortion or birth control, and choose the hospital in the area that accepts that plan. Hospitals that don't take that plan, have funding denied for key services.

Trouble is, what if they've the only hosptital or clinic in that area?
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Old 03-30-2005, 07:10 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by A_Wanderer
So where is the religio-state institution commanding the pharmacists to stop selling these?

it's on it's way.
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Old 03-30-2005, 07:12 PM   #15
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It is always on it's way, it's always just over the horizon, colour me skeptical.
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