Healthcare professionals often face complex ethical dilemmas in the workplace. These dilemmas often arise when employment obligations conflict with personal beliefs. An ethical dilemma that is becoming more common in the workplace involves emergency contraception. Emergency contraceptives or morning-after pills are a fiery topic. Some pharmacists are refusing to dispense morning-after pills because it is against their beliefs. Imagine yourself in the position of needing this medication.
Should the beliefs of the pharmacist outweigh your rights as the patient? For me, the answer would be a resounding no. According to The Code of Ethics for Pharmacists (“Pharmacist. com,” 1994), adopted by the membership of the American Pharmacists Association October 27, 1994, “Pharmacists are health professionals who assist individuals in making the best use of medications. This Code, prepared and supported by pharmacists, is intended to state publicly the principles that form the fundamental basis of the roles and responsibilities of pharmacists.
These principles, based on moral obligations and virtues, are established to guide pharmacists in relationships with patients, health professionals, and society. ” The Code of Ethics further states, “A pharmacist promotes the right of self-determination and recognizes individual self-worth by encouraging patients to participate in decisions about their health. In all cases, a pharmacist respects personal and cultural differences among patients. A pharmacist avoids discriminatory practices, behavior or work conditions that impair professional judgment, and actions that compromise dedication to the best interests of patients.
This guideline clearly states the responsibilities and duties of the pharmacist are to serve the needs of the patient even when doing so contradicts their personal beliefs. In some states, legislators are introducing bills that would grant pharmacists the right to refuse (refusal clauses also known as “conscience clauses”) to dispense drugs related to contraception on moral grounds. Other state legislators are introducing legislation that would require pharmacies to fill any legal prescription for birth control. NCSL Health Program, 2011) APhA has had a policy supporting a pharmacist’s conscience clause since 1998. APhA’s two-part policy supports the ability of the pharmacist to step away from participating in activity to which they have personal objections—but not step in the way.
The Association supports the pharmacist’s right to choose not to fill a prescription based on moral or ethical values. But recognizing the pharmacist’s important role in the health care system, APhA supports the establishment of systems to ensure that the patient’s health care needs are served. “Pharmacist. com,” 1994) When it comes to ethics or morality, arguments and counterarguments will never cease. If a person’s religious objections to emergency contraception interfere with their ability to do their job, then they shouldn’t be in that profession. Refusing to do your job because your conscience won’t allow it comes with consequences that you must accept. Businesses and society cannot function if people are able to ignore rules, regulations, standards, and laws on the basis of “conscience” or religious desire.