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Why are Pharmacists, Pharmacists?

Sometime in December of 2008, Bush’s HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt issued a ‘rule’ that would allow certain medical practitioners and service providers to decline performing, referring or paying for “abortion or any other health care practice that violates a religious belief or moral conviction” under those rules issued by Mr. Leavitt.

According to Leavitt, the rule was in response (reaction) to new ethics guidelines for OB-GYNs from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:

“This rule protects the right of medical providers to care for their patients in accord with their conscience.”

In other words to protect those who refuse to administer medical services or prescriptions that go against their beliefs.

According to the ACOG, the ethics policy was considered to be more about what a physician “should do if they were unwilling” to perform certain procedures, wherein “those cases, according to the policy, doctors should tell patients upfront and refer them to someone who is willing to provide the services.” Leavitt’s rule disallowed any such referral.  The rule was to take place January 19, 2009, and did.

In comes the Obama administration on January 20, 2009 and by the end of the week, President Obama had at least rescinded the global gag rule (Mexico City policy).  And now the Obama administration is looking to rescind the alleged ‘conscience rule’ Leavitt dropped on the day before Mr. Obama took office.

Over the past week or so, I’ve heard at least two shows on NPR that addressed this.  One was on Talk of the Nation and was just on the other day, Tuesday.  The other was last week ‘All Things Considered’ and spoke directly, although briefly, to the rescinding.

The Department of Health and Human Services will begin the process to formally rescind the regulation next week, according to Obama administration sources. But it will also call for a 30-day public comment period.

Talk of the Nation was a 30-minute program on, among other things, those medical practitioners who refuse to treat or fill a prescription or perform some other procedure they find reprehensible.  As one caller stated – along the lines of my thinking – why would you become or enter a certain medical professional knowing there are specific things you find reprehensible?

Why would you become an OB-GYN knowing that at some point you may be required to prescribe birth control pills, the morning after pill, perform a D&C that, and several other procedures?  Why would you become a pharmacist because in becoming one you realize your job is about having an immense knowledge of medicines, their construct and their effect on the body and on other medications, and the dispensing of medications as written by medical prescribers?

And yes – there is a BIG difference between being a physician or other medical practitioner who prescribes medications.  A pharmacist’s job is not to be involved on such an intimate level.  It’s like being a mechanic. You’re involved in maintaining a vehicle and having the knowledge to maintain that vehicle.  However – the mechanic is not the same as the driver.

Then comes the chair of State Affairs Committee in the Idaho House, Tom Loertscher (R) who has decided it’s necessary for the State of Idaho to give pharmacists in the state the option of choosing “whether to dispense medications.”  According to Mr. Loertscher – quoting the Idaho Statesman:

….pharmacists should be able to refuse to dispense birth control and other medications because of their moral, ethical or religious principles.

The State Affairs Committee will allow ‘a full hearing.’

The Democratic representative cited in the article is from my district.  I guarantee she’ll be hearing from me.

For those interested, members of the State Affairs Committee can be found at the link provided.

4 Responses

  1. Anyone who refuses to do their job should not be retained in that job out of some misguided ‘right to conscience.’ Period, full stop. Rachel Maddow often refers to this as the ‘Amish bus driver problem.’

    Let’s say a Muslim woman decides to compete in an Olympic swimming event. She feels that to maintain her dignity under Islamic law she should go into the pool wearing a Burkha. She further insists that, just to be fair to her, the other swimmers should wear Burkhas too. Is it discrimination to refuse to accede to her demands? I think not.

    But then, I personally believe that the rest of us should be allowed to refuse any modern scientific treatment to creationists. They should be allowed to conscientiously pray to their sky god for deliverance from their infections, cancers, and injuries sustained in automobile accidents, and let God decide whether they should recover. Hey, maybe it was God’s will that put them in the accident to begin with.

    You shouldn’t be allowed to have it both ways, at least not if you’re trying to impose your values on people around you that don’t share your beliefs.

  2. I’m not hip with the Muslim woman scenario, not to mention the impracticality of swimming in a burkah.

    No – I understand the education behind pharmacology. I understand they know a lot; I know a lot being in my profession coupled with my education. I’ve had doctors defer to me as a tech becuase they couldn’t accurately ‘read’ radiographs, an ultrasound or an MRI. It’s not part of their job to have other than a cursory knowledge, unless they’re a radiologist.

    I have simple thoughts about it. If you as a pharmacist have ‘qualms’ about filling a prescription, then get out of the profession – specifically if one (prescription type) that is antithetical to your ethics. Your ethics – that’s what is really called into question when you refuse to serve a patient (s). You’re compromising the patient’s health care when YOU impose your religiosity or alleged ethical dilemma on the patient.

  3. The whole Olympic Burkah swim event was just my attempt to paint as ridiculous a picture as possible of someone injecting their alleged morals into someplace they don’t belong simply in order to impose their will on someone else. Would you feel more comfortable with a story about a Christian fundamentalist who goes to a whorehouse to preach abstinence only? It’s known as reductio ad absurdum.

    The sad thing is there are plenty of real world examples you could use without coming up with an exaggerated hypothetical, but the latter does have its fun side.

  4. Pfft – I see your point.

    Okay – now we’re reduced to throwing around Latin!? Reductio ad absurdum? Is that for real Latin, SBT?

    Would you feel more comfortable with a story about a Christian fundamentalist who goes to a whorehouse to preach abstinence only?

    No – maybe to the Duggars or whoever that couple is on the Discovery Channel with, what, 18 – 20 kids, somewhere in there. However, I do think Bristol Palin said it best, ‘abstinence is unrealistic.’

    Besides, we’re talking about drugs. The kids in the apartment downstairs from me have come into some fine smelling weed. I can’t imbibe, but I can SMELL!

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