A growing number of American pharmacists have been dispensing their moral beliefs along with medication to some customers. Courtrooms in several states are dealing with complaints that some pharmacists are refusing to fill prescriptions to birth control pills and morning-after pills. Customers complain that these pharmacists are lecturing them about their lifestyle, holding their prescription hostage by refusing to transfer it to another drug store, along with the refusal to fill the prescription. Pharmacists who interfere with customers getting their prescriptions have faced disciplinary action from state boards, have been forced to participate in ethics classes, and some have lost their jobs. The courts are still deciding whether or not to add other penalties, including fines and paying court costs to the consequences.
I did find this trend unusual….and troubling….but it took me some time to figure out what bothered me about it. I think it comes down to job expectations. While we each bring our own set of beliefs to any job we perform, we also make decisions about any career choice while pursuing that goal. Becoming a pharmacist is not an overnight process. There is a great deal of time to consider the implications of that profession before you actually don the lab coat and step behind a drug store counter. Even before classes are taken, the average person has a fairly clear idea of what the job expectations are as a pharmacist. Because of this, I don’t think many visualize the pharmacist role to be that of a moral beacon. There is some level of counseling that a pharmacist performs, but that is generally limited to providing information on how medicines work and interact with the human body. It’s medical doctors with the God Complex, right? Talk about getting a second opinion!
Anyway, if people are seeking other forms of guidance, then they typically consult specialists in other fields. Psychologists, doctors, lawyers, accountants, gurus, and priests all offer guidance to those seeking it; depending on what type of counsel is sought. Pharmacists are hired to do one job. Refusal to do that job should have some consequence. What I find curious is that these pharmacists don’t appear to be protesting other ills. Do these people still sell condoms? If they are THAT pro-life, isn’t prescribing antibiotics killing on a genocidal scale? Does this disapproval extend into other lifestyle choices that customers might make? Do they sell cigarettes or do they lecture customers about the health issues they raise?
The bottom line is that if personal morality prevents the employee from doing their job; it’s not the employer’s job to accommodate that. If you want to lecture people about lifestyle choices, find another career path. One that has “lecturing other people about lifestyle choices” in the job description.