Pro-life pharmacist thought she'd be blacklisted
British Columbia, Canada
This article originally appeared in the
Reproduced with permission.
For the past three years, Alarcon has been
challenging the B.C. College of Pharmacists' Code of Ethics, which
essentially requires that pharmacists violate their conscience when it comes
to the belief that life is valuable from the moment of conception.
[Text of Alarcon talk]
Being pro-life in the workplace is not easy, but it's a "wonderful
opportunity to give witness to the truth about the dignity of each human
being," says Cristina Alarcon.
Alarcon was one of the speakers who addressed about 600 students and
other pro-lifers at the recent archdiocesan schools pro-life conference.
Alarcon said in the early days of her career as a pharmacist she was
spared some of the dilemmas she encounters today. She worked in a hospital
for war veterans and later worked with cancer patients and on a palliative
care team, where she was able to contribute to the comforting of dying
patients with her knowledge of therapeutic pain control.
"I think that many people see the value of comforting the dying, and not
just killing them off," she said. "Fewer people see the value and beauty of
life from its very moment of conception. We know that when the weakest
members of our society, the human embryos, are mistreated, our society is
Society has difficulty understanding that those who stand up for their
beliefs are not necessarily seeking to impose their will on others, but
simply trying not to act against their own conscience, said Alarcon.
It makes for some contradictory situations. If a pregnant woman comes to
the pharmacy and asks for advice about medication for a bad cold, she is
warned about the harmful effects of the chemicals in cold medicine on her
"Am I imposing a morality?" Alarcon asked.
On the other hand, if a woman demands the morning-after pill, "I tell her
that I cannot give it to her because if she is already pregnant ... (it)
will destroy a life that has begun.
"Now am I imposing a morality?"
Many people believe that if something is legal, it should be readily
available and all trained professionals should be willing to provide the
service, she said. "It's a real challenge to try to help people understand
the fallacy in this way of thinking."
Freedom for all, she said, means, "I should be able to practise according
to my pro-life beliefs, and the patient should be free to choose the
professional of his choice."
She cited the Pope's apostolic letter Nuevo Millennio Ineunte,
referring to the duty to be committed to respecting the life of every human
being from conception until natural death) "For Christian witness to be
effective, especially in these delicate and controversial areas, it is
important that special efforts be made to explain properly the reasons for
the Church's position, stressing that it is not a case of imposing on
non-believers a vision based on faith, but of defending the values rooted in
the very nature of the human person."
In other words, respect for human life is not based on faith, but on
natural law, she said.
Another challenge is to lobby professional bodies to change their
position on practitioners who object to providing controversial products or
services. For the past three years, Alarcon has been challenging the B.C.
College of Pharmacists' Code of Ethics, which essentially requires that
pharmacists violate their conscience when it comes to the belief that life
is valuable from the moment of conception.
Her initial concern that she would be blacklisted after being interviewed
in the mainstream press has now given way to hope. "What I am finding is
that little by little I am winning the respect of my colleagues, who, though
they may not necessarily see eye to eye with me right now, can nevertheless
understand my position."
Part of the problem is that many people believe the law settles moral
issues. "In other words, if something is legal, it must be OK. Most people
have no other compass for determining what is right and good and what is
morally wrong, so once in-vitro fertilization, human cloning, euthanasia,
etc., are legal, they think that everyone should be expected to co-operate
in such practices."
She cited the example of Iraq, where doctors are forced against their
conscience to be involved in non-medical procedures, including punitive
amputations and disfigurations. In Alberta, California, Florida, Washington,
and Indiana, pharmacists have been reprimanded or fired for objecting to the
dispensing of abortifacient drugs, she said.
One B.C. pharmacist at a recent college meeting went so far as to state
that the rights of patients to a product supersede the rights to freedom of
conscience of the pharmacist, and that the Canadian Charter of Rights
and Freedoms does not apply to health-care professionals "because we
are duty-bound to the public."
The irony is that when it comes to issues such as the sale of syringes or
methadone to drug addicts, "the college leaves it up to each individual
pharmacist to decide what he wants to do, but when a decision touches on
whether or not I will dispense birth control, IUDs, or `the morning-after'
pill, I am expected to either dispense the product if no one else is
available, or refer the patient to someone who will."