Alberta pharmacist vindicated for pro-Life stand

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Mike Mastromatteo

A Calgary pharmacist has reached an agreement with her employer and the Alberta College of Pharmacists that will allow her to refrain from providing customers with prescriptions designed to terminate unborn human life.

Maria Bizecki of the Co-op Pharmacy in Calgary became the subject of an internal review by the Alberta College of Pharmacists last year after she refused to dispense the so-called “morning-after” pill and other products to which she is morally opposed.[Full text]

B.C. Pharmacist representing “conscientious objectors” at AGM wins substantial support from colleagues

News Release

Concerned Pharmacists for  Conscience in BC

A resolution that would allow pharmacists to opt out of dispensing morally controversial products such as the Morning After Pill gained substantial support from pharmacists at the AGM of B.C. Pharmacists on October 12th.

A number of pharmacists took to the microphone to voice their strong support; only one pharmacist spoke in opposition. Although the preliminary show-of -hands vote was not won, supporters of the resolution do not see this as a defeat, but simply as a sign that more work needs to be done.

At best, the current Code of Ethics for pharmacists acknowledges that some members may run into moral dilemmas, but does not provide accommodation for conscientious objectors.

“It is ironic that the B.C. Health Minister wants to ban tobacco sales in pharmacies while our Premier wants pharmacists to give out the morning after pill like candy. Scientifically, this is an abortion causing drug developed primarily to act against implantation of a live human embryo in vivo. It is a product that professional pharmacists may refuse to dispense for medical, ethical reasons, or on moral or religious grounds, not to mention liability concerns and the possibility of having angry parents of teenagers coming after us. We still do not know long -term effects of repeated use of the morning after pill, but we do know that these high doses of hormones have been strongly linked to breast cancer. We will be using our young women as guinea pigs,” says Cristina Alarcon, British Columbia representative for a group called Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience.

” Regardless of where you stand on the moral issues surrounding abortifacient use, pharmacists who do not wish to participate must be respected and should not be FORCED to refer”, says Alarcon.

Miss Alarcon made the opening remarks at the AGM in support of the resolution that would recognize a pharmacist’s right to refuse a prescription on moral grounds.

” Conscientious objectors simply want to exercise the right to not participate in morally objectionable treatments and the right to freedom of conscience in matters that pertain to morals and religion in accordance with Canadian Human Rights jurisprudence. We do not claim to have a monopoly on the profession, and we are not blocking access nor infringing on a patient’s ” right to choose”. Furthermore, with the dawn of ever more controversial “treatments”, such as euthanasia,

RU-486, genetic manipulation , and execution (as referred to in our Mar/Apr College bulletin), health care workers are in greater need of Conscience Clause Legislation in this country. This is what I am fighting for,” she continues; “If we are to act in the public’s best interests, we must act freely and responsibly, and not as coerced automatons as our College currently mandates, nor as dispensing machines.

For further information, please call Miss Cristina Alarcon, at 604-222-8317 or at 604-974-0993 ext. 1232

Project letter to the editor, The Winnipeg Sun

As submitted

I am pleased to see that the Winnipeg Sun supports the principle that people should not have to dispense products that they find morally offensive. Your editorial (Pharmacological farce, 6 June, 2000) makes clear that conscientious objectors who refuse to sell cigarettes can count on your support, even though cigarettes are legal in Canada.

What remains unclear are the reasons why you insist on a two-tiered system of civil rights with respect to freedom of conscience: full rights for people who agree with you, like those who would refuse to sell cigarettes, and none for those who do not agree with you, like Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience.

However, the fact that you support the principle with respect to like-minded individuals suggests that a more tolerant and liberal attitude toward others may eventually prevail.

Contrary to the dismissive comment in your editorial, concerns that pharmacists may be forced to dispense drugs for assisted suicide and euthanasia are not misplaced. The College of Pharmacists of BC has put its members on notice about such possibilities. Legalization of assisted suicide, as well as execution by lethal injection, have led some pharmacists’ associations in the United States to adopt policies to protect conscientious objectors.

An attempt to force moral beliefs upon the populace? While that may be a fitting description of the Sun’s editorial, it is not the position of conscientious objectors. They simply do not wish to have the private morality of drug companies and newspaper editors forced upon them.

Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project


As Published

Objection sustained

I am pleased The Winnipeg Sun supports the principle that people should not have to dispense products they find morally offensive. Pharmacological Farce, June 6, makes clear that conscientious objectors who refuse to sell cigarettes can count on your support.

Why do you insist on full rights for people who agree with you, like those who won’t sell cigarettes, and none for those who do not agree with you, such as Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience.

The B.C. College of Pharmacists has warned members about the possibility of being forced to dispense drugs for assisted suicide and euthanasia. Legalizing assisted suicide and execution by lethal injection led U.S. pharmacist associations to protect conscientious objectors.

Conscientious objectors aren’t trying to force moral beliefs upon others. They simply do not wish to have the private morality of drug companies and newspaper editors forced upon them.

Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience supports Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association

News Release

Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience

The professional group Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience supports and applauds the Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association’s courageous inclusion of a model statement in their Standards of Practice, which does not require pharmacists with conscientious objections to refer patients. Patient access to legally prescribed therapy would continue to be available without compromising the health professionals’ right of conscientious refusal.

Ms. Maria Bizecki, spokesperson for Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience, says “Pharmacists  in Manitoba can now exercise their freedom of conscience rights without fear for their noble livelihood. Pharmacists are presently objecting to participate as agents of death, not attempting to block access or give moral pep talks at the pharmacy counter.”

Bizecki futher added that as the Canadian Medical Association does not require doctors to participate in or refer for abortions, all pharmacists must also be protected     nationally by their associations. “By pushing their morality on health care workers, the public violates a pharmacist’s autonomy, integrity and basic human rights in  a country that protects its minorities.”

For further information: Ms. Maria Bizecki, spokesperson Tel: (403) 228-2190  Fax:(403) 228-2249

 

Letter to the editor, Globe and Mail

Reproduced with permission

Re: April 27, 2000: Don’t let drugstores become pulpits

An “inability to distinguish between emergency contraception and the abortion pill”, and “irresponsible and blatantly uninformed” actually describes Planned Parenthood, not educated pharmacists. Planned Parenthood eagerly wants women to ingest dangerous hormones, which in the case of the morning after pill, fails at least 25% of the time. Planned Parenthood, not pharmacists, makes the choice for women by withholding facts and “spreading misinformation” in the name of sexual freedom.

Let every woman exercise her right to make an informed decision: the scientific literature is clear and abundant that the morning after pill (post-coital interception) acts primarily to prevent implantation, not ovulation. Therefore, to call it a contraceptive is false and misleading. To argue that pregnancy is not already established is a minority viewpoint ignoring virtually all embryology, biology and genetics texts.

Dr. Albert Yuzpe invented the morning after pill, yet does not mention ovulation prevention in his Contemporary Obstetrics and Gynecology article in 1994. He does mention, however, structural changes in the endometrium might “represent a hostile or non-receptive site for implantation”.

Futhermore, Jennifer Kessell, spokewoman for the company making Preven, confirmed that “more often it would prevent implantation” (The Report, Dec 6, 1999).

Pharmacists are objecting to participate, not attempting to block patient access to products. Doctors cannot be forced to perform procedures that violate their consciences, why should pharmacists? By pushing their morality on health care workers, the public violates a pharmacist’s autonomy, integrity, and basic human rights in a country that protects its minorities

Maria Bizecki
Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience

 

 

Controversy continues over ‘morning after pill’

The BC Ministry of Health continued to work toward making the ‘morning after pill’ more readily available at pharmacies, though it abandoned its orginal plans for dispensing the drug without prescriptions. Spokesmen for Planned Parenthood and the company marketing the drug denied that it was an abortifacient, ridiculing conscientious objectors. Planned Parenthood and the drug company use a different definition of conception and pregnancy than the objectors. See responses from the Project and Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience (not published).

 

Project letter to the editor, Globe and Mail

(Not published)

Joy Thompson and Hazelle Palmer betray a fundamental misunderstanding of conscientious objection in their criticism of Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience (Don’t let drug stores become pulpits, Globe & Mail, 26 April 2000).

Pharmacists who have moral objections to dispensing the morning after pill usually assert that a new, unique and living human being begins to exist – and pregnancy begins – with the union of sperm and egg. This union they call conception or fertilization. These are hardly novel propositions in an era when fertilization is accomplished routinely in petri dishes, the resulting early embryos kept alive and matured pending implantation – or civil litigation.

The morning after pill prevents the union of sperm and egg only if it is taken in time to suppress ovulation. In other cases, it brings about the death of the early embryo by preventing implantation in the womb. This is the crux of the moral problem faced by pharmacists who hold that it is gravely wrong to deliberately cause the death of the developing human being at any point after conception.

Planned Parenthood and The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada think that the morning after pill is a good thing. They call it ‘emergency contraception’, they claim that it does not cause abortions, and they ridicule those who disagree. “Out of step with medical community”, “professionally irresponsible, or blatantly uninformed”, and “inventing a controversy” are the accusations hurled from the Planned Parenthood pulpit at conscientious objectors.

The controversy being invented here arises from a difference in terminology. Thompson and Palmer et al define conception – and the beginning of pregnancy – as implantation of the early embryo in the womb, not as the union of sperm and egg. Thus, in their view, ‘contraception’ includes not only drugs or devices that prevent conception (fertilization), but anything that prevents implantation of the early embryo. That is why they describe the morning after pill as a ‘contraceptive’, regardless of its mechanism, and insist that it does not interfere with pregnancy. In their lexicon, the existence of the early embryo following fertilization does not count as pregnancy unless implantation occurs, and the destruction of the embryo prior to implantation is not abortion. The public can hardly be expected to make sense of the present dispute unless these points are clarified.

Out of step with medical community? The Canadian Medical Association advises physicians who have moral objections to abortion to explain this to their patients, and insists that there be no discrimination against physicians who refuse to perform or assist with abortions. Dr. John Williams, the CMA’s Director of Ethics, recently confirmed that doctors are not obliged to refer patients for abortions. “Respect for the right of personal decision in this area must be stressed,” states CMA policy. Is the respect given to doctors to be denied pharmacists and other health care professionals because powerful interests are able to shout them down?

Contrary to Thompson and Palmer’s assertions, conscientious objectors are not trying to prevent the introduction of abortifacient or contraceptive drugs, nor are they attempting to block access to them. These are impossible objectives for such a vulnerable minority with limited means. Instead, they simply ask that they not be hounded out of their professions because they will not do what they believe to be gravely wrong. Does The Best Country in the World have room for such people?

Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project

Concerned Pharmacists cite lack of consultation in Alberta

News Release

Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience

In a controversial policy change, announced this week the College of Pharmacists of B.C. decided to allow pharmacists to hand out the morning after pill, Preven, over the counter without a doctor’s prescription.  In response, Greg Eberhart, registrar of the     Alberta Pharmaceutical Association (APhA) has stated that “The APhA hopes to follow  B.C.’s push…”

“There has been no dialogue between the membership of the APhA and its executive, as to how pharmacists stand on this position,” says Ms. Maria Bizecki, spokesperson for  the group Concerned Phamacists for Conscience (CPC).  Ms. Bizecki further states the  APhA executive finds itself under increased pressure from the Society of Obstetricians and  Gynecologists of  Canada (SOGC), to dispense this product over the counter.

In 1995, the issue of a “conscience clause” came before the  APhA  membership and was passed, but, after consideration, dismissed by the APhA’s self-appointed Regulatory Affairs Committee.   “Forcing pharmacists to dispense or refer patients requesting Preven, an abortion causing drug developed to primarily act during Implantation of an embryo, is an insult to the autonomy of the pharmacist, the profession of pharmacy, and a health risk to women” adds  Ms.Bizecki.

Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience (CPC) is opposed to pharmacists dispensing     medications that violate their conscience on moral, medical ethical, or religious grounds.

For further information: Ms. Maria Bizecki, spokesperson Tel: (403) 228-2190  Fax:(403) 228-2249