Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude

Report 2001-01

Re: College of Pharmacists of British Columbia - Conduct of the Ethics Advisory Committee

26 March, 2001



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Governing statute, regulations and bylaws
The College of Pharmacists of British Columbia regulates the practice of pharmacy in the province under the authority of the Pharmacists, Pharmacy Operations and Drug Scheduling Act (RSBC 1996). Section 2 of the Act imposes upon the College a duty to "serve and protect the public" and exercise its powers "in the public interest"[2(2)a,b]. Section 2 also authorizes the College

(e) to govern registrants according to this Act and the bylaws;

(g) to establish, monitor and enforce standards of practice to enhance the quality of practice and reduce incompetent, impaired or unethical practice among registrants;

(k) to establish, maintain and enforce standards of professional ethics among registrants;

Anyone who practises pharmacy in British Columbia must register with the College [Section 15, 21], and all registered pharmacists are members of the College [Section 3]. The affairs of the College are overseen by a Council comprised of pharmacists elected by their colleagues, and non-pharmacists appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council [Section 7]. Bylaws made by the council and approved by the Lieutenant Governor in Council govern the profession [Section 61]. The bylaws may include "standards of practice and conduct to be adhered to by a registrant "[61(2)e] and establish "committees the council determines are necessary or advisable"[61(2)q].

Resolutions passed at annual general meetings of the members of the College are considered to be of an advisory nature, and are not binding on the Council.12

Committees required by statute
An inquiry committee established under the Act is responsible for investigating complaints of professional misconduct, and may initiate such investigations [Section 48(1)]. It may refer the matter under investigation to another committee of the College, such as the Ethics Advisory Committee, for a review and report [Section 48(3)]. If the inquiry committee has reasonable and probably grounds to believe that a pharmacist "has been or is negligent or incompetent",[48(8)c] or "has committed professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming a registrant" [48(8)d] it must direct that a disciplinary hearing be held.

Disciplinary hearings are conducted by a panel of three, drawn from a discipline committee of at seven or more persons, at least one of whom must not be a pharmacist [Section 52, 53; Bylaw 4, paragraph 18]. Penalties for conviction range from reprimand through fines and assessment of costs to the cancellation of registration (i.e., dismissal from pharmacy practice) [Section 54]. There is a right of appeal to the Supreme Court by the College council or any person aggrieved or adversely affected by the decision of the disciplinary committee [Section 59].

Committees established by the council
The Council may approve the formation of committees in addition to those required by statute. One of these, the Ethics Advisory Committee, was approved on 14 June, 1997, after the Registrar of the College advised the council of the need for "a group to assist College members and staff, as well as the members of the public, in the interpretation and application of the revised Code of Ethics", with the responsibility "of reviewing the Code on an ongoing basis to ensure its continuing applicability and timeliness."13
Ethics Advisory Committee: structure and policy
The original terms of reference for the Committee consisted only of these brief statements by the Registrar. The following year, the original terms of reference were rescinded by the council and replaced with the following:

1. Provide advice and guidance to members of the College (either individually or as a group) regarding ethical questions and dilemmas.

2. Review and recommend updates to the Code of Ethics as necessary.

3. Consult on education program proposals relating to ethics issues.

4. Serve a liaison function with the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences on matters concerning the ethics education of students.14

Unprofessional conduct
Bylaw 9 of the council defines 'unprofessional conduct', including within the term "failing to comply with the Code of Ethics of the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia."15 It is reasonable to suppose that the Ethics Advisory Committee would have a role to play in disciplinary matters involving Value IX of the Code of Ethics, which concerns conscientious objection.