Project Logo

Protection of Conscience Project

Service, not Servitude
Project Reports

Report 2001-01

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

26 March, 2001

Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal

Editorial- April 2001

Reproduced with permission

Back in August, in the thick of our series on emergency contraception, Sean Murphy, administrator of a group called the Protection of Conscience Project, sent us a letter criticizing a column we published by Frank Archer, a member of the BC College of Pharmacists ethics committee. Said Mr. Murphy: "In his May column (Mr. Archer said) that conscientious objectors believe they are entitled to lie to mislead patients, and that they wish to obtain patient consent by dishonest means." He asked us "to provide evidence to substantiate the accusations, or print a retraction and apology for having published them."

At the risk of revisiting an offending passage -- but in the interest of fairness here's what Mr. Archer wrote in May: "A third concern is that pharmacists should be able to deny certain legitimate pharmacy services exist, if requested to provide them, or at least to be able to attempt to dissuade such patients, under the guise of patient counselling, by stating religious or moral beliefs as if they were scientific facts. This establishes that lying is justified if pharmacists object to providing contentious services."

To me, Mr. Archer's comments are not the stuff of apologies and retractions.

Important in this example, the article -- an opinion piece -- appeared early in the EC debate and was meant to establish and comment on possible scenarios in the pharmacy. That's shown when Mr. Archer writes that "pharmacists should be able to" deny services, or "be able to attempt" to dissuade patients from trying EC. He does not claim that some pharmacists "do" deny that EC exists, or "do" counsel patients by stating religious or moral beliefs. Instead, he was covering the bases in what was a fairly exhaustive review.

Having said all that, proofreaders will argue that the CPJ confused matters by neglecting the sentence, "this establishes that lying is justified...'. And they would be right. It should have read "this would establish," to agree with the rest of the paragraph.

For some, that explanation probably won't do. Emergency contraception is an emotional subject, and pharmacists on both sides have been rigorous in defending their arguments. Mr. Murphy will have to decide if our response is fair, and I suspect he will share his conclusions.

Which leads us to another article -a letter, actually - that might offer some perspective.

Consider this passage from our May, 2000, issue: "I am very sorry, but just because a treatment is legal, it does not therefore automatically make it moral. Hitler also legalized mercy killing."

By publishing that argument, is the CPJ equating some health professionals with amoral Nazi butchers? No, of course not.

But we won't apologize or retract that comment either.



Print Friendly and PDF