Imagine that I went to the pharmacist to obtain chemotherapy for my chronic leukemia. Jenny, the pharmacist, refuses to dispense it because she believes the packaging is environmentally unfriendly. It is not Green enough.
Imagine that I went to the pharmacist with a prescription for morphine tablets for my chronic pain from prostatic cancer. Cyril refuses to dispense them because narcotics are addictive.
Imagine that I went to the pharmacist for antibiotics. Wayne refuses to serve me because I am wearing a burka.
It is legal to refuse to sell products even if one has them in stock. Yet as health care professionals , Jenny, Cyril and Wayne all fail in any basic duty of care. They should be sacked.
These stories are all as fictional as they are outrageous. Yet similar stories are not. Janine Deeley recently took a prescription for an oral contraceptive to her local pharmacy. The pharmacist refused to sell it. The pharmacist, with the support of the code of ethics supplied by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, had decided not to distribute contraceptives on religious grounds. To get her prescription, (which was in fact to use the pill to control the symptoms of her endometriosis), Janine would have to return another day, when a different pharmacist would be on duty and submit her pain-reducing prescription to another pharmacist’s conscience for scrutiny.
It does not lessen the outrage that this woman was taking the pill as a pain reliever. The use of the pill for family planning is widely accepted in this society and with no good ethical objections to it. Indeed, reports today suggest thatwomen who have taken the contraceptive pill are at lower risk of heart disease and cancers. Three million British women are prescribed the pill, which in addition to its contraceptive properties, has been used to treat the symptoms of endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome problematic periods, and acne. It is available free of charge on the NHS as a policy decision.
The place of such religious values is in the home or place of worship – not in the workplace to the detriment of others. This kind of religious imperialism, or indeed any kind of moral imperialism, should not be tolerated in a secular liberal society. People should be free to practise their own religion or pursue their values but not at cost to others.
There are plenty of careers that don’t involve the provision of the oral contraception.
It would be absurd for a vegetarian to take a job in a slaughterhouse and then invoke conscientious objection to performing his or her job.
Even more important is that our health care professionals deliver the best quality health care.