EDITOR'S NOTE: Recently, CBS News reported some pharmacists refuse to fill prescriptions on moral grounds. The report said these pharmacists were emboldened by the recent victories of conservative American candidates.
The Brazil Times editorial staff decided to survey local pharmacists to see what their stands might be.
Does your pharmacist have to fill your prescription?
There have been instances where pharmacists have not filled prescriptions on moral grounds. The main issue behind this trend deals with personal beliefs about types of contraceptives, birth control pills and the morning after pill. The big question is whether these types of medications prevent pregnancy (usually not a moral issue) or are they a form of abortion (usually a moral dilemma).
Recent legislation introduced in support of the patient's right-to-die, assisted suicide, the use of abortifacients (such as the morning after pill) and pain management increases the likelihood that a physician will prescribe a drug that presents a moral dilemma to a pharmacist. Numerous states have introduced legislation this past year regarding these issues, yet very few states have addressed the pharmacist's role in these cases.
It's not clear whether a pharmacist is protected from repercussions as a result of either participating in one of these procedures by dispensing the drug or refusing to participate by not dispensing the drug. Accepted thinking condones the pharmacist's right to refuse to dispense based on professional judgment.
A quick Internet search indicates no court cases were found that ruled in favor of or against a pharmacist's right to refuse or to dispense medications based on personal beliefs. Most states require that the pharmacist exercise professional judgment with respect to the legitimacy of prescription orders dispensed. Specifically, in Indiana, the Supreme Court ruled pharmacists do have a duty to not dispense harmful medications based on professional judgment.
It's specified in pharmacy laws of many states that it's the pharmacist's duty to refuse to dispense if, in the pharmacist's professional judgment, the prescription does not seem to be valid, or if filling the prescription as written could cause inadvertent harm to the patient. What is not clear is whether a pharmacist has the right to refuse to dispense based on personal beliefs.
There is a difference in attitudes between locally owned pharmacies and chain establishments such as Kroger or CVS. Fritz Maurer of Maurers Apothecary said, "I would not fill a prescription for the morning after pill; the reason being because it promotes promiscuity."
Lynn Hostettler, of Lynn's Pharmacy said when asked about dispensing the morning after pill, " I think its immoral and I won't do it."
Maurer's and Lynn's do fill prescriptions for birth control.
"Birth control is used for more than preventing pregnancy, its used for acne and other things," Maurer said.
Shannan Adams, a pharmacist for the Kroger Pharmacy stated when asked about the morning after pill, "I might not agree with it but it's not my choice."
The U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in the landmark case, Rowe vs. Wade, 1973. It was found that women have the right of privacy. The court's decision led to a state being able to enact virtually no regulation on a woman's decision within the first trimester. In the second trimester, the state can enact some regulation, but only for the purpose of protecting maternal health. In the third trimester, after viability, a state can prescribe abortion, provided it made exceptions to preserve the life and health of the woman seeking abortion.
Issued on the same day as Rowe vs. Wade, Doe vs. Bolton defines health to mean all factors that affect the woman's physical, emotional, psychological and the woman's age."
Until such time as the Supreme Court's ruling is overturned it will be possible for women to acquire these medications legally and without repercussions. Pharmacists can decide not to fill prescriptions but these medications are available through specialized clinics and available for purchase online.