Re: College of Pharmacists of British Columbia -
Conduct of the Ethics Advisory Committee
26 March, 2001
College of Pharmacists of British Columbia
Bulletin - March/April 2000 Vol. 25, No. 2
bulletin was prepared by the Ethics Advisory
Committee.16No minutes were kept of
the drafting of the document; the final (published) version is the only
record that exists.17
The sections relevant to this report are highlighted.
Ethics in Practice
Moral Conflicts in Pharmacy Practice
The Code of Ethics adopted by the College of Pharmacists of British
Columbia acknowledges that some pharmacists have moral objections to
providing certain recognized pharmacy services. As a compromise, the Code
recognizes conscientious objection as long as patients are not denied
legitimate services. These pharmacists must refer patients to colleagues who
will provide such services, and in the end deliver these services themselves
if it is impractical or impossible for patients to otherwise received them.
Pharmacy, like all professions, has been granted a monopoly right to
provide services to the public. And professions have an obligation to
provide recognized services to the public, because the public has no
alternative. For this, professions receive prestige and financial reward. In
the case of pharmacy some might argue we received one without the other, but
this is another subject.
Individual pharmacists may experience conscience problems when requested
to provide services to which they have a moral objection. At present these
services might include provision of contraceptives, syringes and needles for
drug addicts, emergency contraceptives, high doses of narcotics to control
intractable pain that might hasten death in the terminally ill, and
medications for terminal sedation. In future these services might expand to
include preparation of drugs to assist voluntary or involuntary suicide,
cloning, genetic manipulation, or even execution.
Some pharmacists have argued that if they have a moral objection to
providing certain pharmacy services, neither they nor the profession has an
obligation to see that patients are provided with these services, and
patients should not receive them. They should be
able to dissuade patients requesting these services by denying their
availability, or providing information under the guise of patient
counselling. In some jurisdictions so-called "conscience clauses"
have recognized these arguments.
The moral position of an individual pharmacist, if it differs from the
ethics of the profession, cannot take precedence over that of the profession
as a whole. The public cannot be expected to consider it to be just bad luck
if patients are refused recognized pharmacy services because their
pharmacists have moral objections to providing them. And
profession cannot allow pharmacists to lie about the existence of these
services or promote their moral viewpoint in an attempt to persuade patients
not to seek recognized pharmacy services they find objectionable.