Imagine, on your next visit to the pharmacy, the guy at the window refuses to refill your Prozac because he believes pseudo-science psychiatrists just want to load us all up with drugs. Tom Cruise still has his day job, so it wouldn’t be him, but it could be one of his many fellow Scientologists working behind the counter.
Incidents of pharmacists choosing not to dispense certain drugs to customers – typically based on their own religious or moral beliefs – are becoming increasingly common. Many of the refusals involve the “morning after” pill, or Plan B, which stops conception from occurring up to 72 hours after the act. This shouldn’t be confused with the abortion pill, RU-486.
Shouldn’t be, but is. Some people give equal moral weighting to preventing conception and terminating a pregnancy early on. Unfortunately, some of them also wear a name tag and work behind the counter at your local pharmacy, which means they stand between you and your pills.
Even the FDA has gotten in on the obstructionist act, stalling the OTC release of Plan B, even though it has been proven safe and effective.
What apparently hasn’t occurred to “pro-life” pharmacists and public officials is that a woman may well turn to abortion if she can't get Plan B in time. Perhaps they ought to weigh that possibility against their own moral objections.
Some stores have a policy that their pharmacists must hand off a prescription to someone else, or refer the customer to another pharmacy, if they object to dispensing it. Still, some objectors are steadfast.
There are ways to get pharmacists to dispense with their "moral" objections and dispense Plan B to those who need it, though. For example, municipalities could raise taxes in order to provide for any unplanned children, from birth through the age of 18, who were born as the result of a pharmacist’s refusal to dispense Plan B. This, if anything, would no doubt put the fear of God into them.
But holding pharmacists to their responsibilities should begin well before they’re behind the counter. On day one of pharmacy college, instructors should make every student aware that he/she may one day have to dispense a drug they find objectionable, whether an existing one or one yet to be developed. Perhaps they already do this, but, if so, they’re not getting their point across.
Those who don’t feel they’ll be able to keep their beliefs out of their work should probably try another field of study. People need to be able to expect they’ll get the medicines they need from an unbiased professional – not a lecture from an armchair ethicist – when they go to the pharmacy.
Watch for more controversy when Gardasil, a miracle vaccine that’s been proven 100% effective in preventing cervical cancer, debuts next year. Some “family” groups have already said that the vaccine, which also prevents HPV, a common STD, will simply encourage promiscuity. We may well hear stories about women encountering pharmacists who tell them, “Sorry, I don’t sell to sluts.”