Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Quandry of the Moral Pharmacist

In the Sunday, April 24 issue of my local newpaper appeared a column by Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald titled "A moral objection does not give you license to shun job duties". Mr. Pitts starts off giving an example of someone who joins the Army and then refuses, on moral grounds, to kill enemy troops. He then likens this to a pharmacist, on moral grounds, refusing to dispense various forms of birth-control pills. This has been in the news recently. Apparently, the governor of Illinois issued an emergency decaration requiring pharmacies to fill prescriptions for the "morning after pill" after a pharmacist in that state refused to fill such a prescription. I both agree and disagree with various aspects of this situation. First of all, I commend and respect anyone who is willing enough to stand up for their beliefs and values to refuse to kill someone (in the case of the soldier), refuse to perform an abortion, or refuse to dispense birth control pills, including the morning-after pill, or even refusing to work on their sabbath. That being said, I feel that once someone has accepted a job working for someone else, knowing in advance all that that job entails and all that they will be called upon to do, they have given up their right to be selective concerning these sorts of moral issues. This means that anyone who is self-employed, whether as a doctor, pharmacist or whatever, can do whatever they want (within the law). If a pharmacist who owns their own independent drug store does not want to dispense certain medications based on moral grounds, that is OK. If they are closed on the owner's sabbath day, that is OK too. On the other hand, I feel that a pharmacist who works for WalMart, or Eckerd or any other chain must abide by the rules of the company they work for. The rules that they know of when they began their employment. They must fill whatever prescriptions are brought in. The government (as in the case of Illinois) should not need to get involved.

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