College of Pharmacists of British Columbia
Policies relevant to freedom of conscience
Links and annotations
Code of Ethics (June, 2016)
The CPhBC Code of Ethics was revised in the months following the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada to order the legalization of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. In addressing the issue of freedom of conscience and religion, the College avoided the temptation to write policy based on concerns about a particular pharmacy service. Instead, it drafted a broadly worded policy that can be applied to a range of services and procedures.
Appropriate stress is placed on the obligation of objecting pharmacists to provide timely notice of their position to the employer or pharmacy manager. This facilitates accommodation of freedom of conscience and religion and the making of alternative arrangements for patients seeking morally contested services.
The provision that forbids discussion of personal beliefs with patients is apparently intended to prevent pharmacists from attempting to convert patients to their viewpoints. The wording does not leave room for the kind of legitimate and respectful conversation that may sometimes occur between a pharmacist and patient who have a sound professional relationship. On the other hand, it does not appear to preclude disclosure of a pharmacist's belief when necessary to explain why they are unwilling or unable to supply the requested product.
The nature of pharmacy practice allows management to develop strategies that may make even this minimal disclosure unnecessary. This can result in a seamless provision of services that may leave patients unaware that freedom of conscience has been exercised and respected. [See Calgary Co-operative Association Re: Maria Bizecki]
The contentious issue of referral is satisfactorily resolved by making it clear that objecting pharmacists are not obliged to initiate referrals or transfers of care (which, for many, would entail unacceptable complicity) but must cooperate in transfers of care initiated by others.