I have long followed the growing debate over a pharmacist’s right to refuse to fill a prescription on religious/conscientious objection grounds. Washington state has taken the biggest leap yet toward the reality that we are no longer a nation of laws, but a nation of individual law-makers.
According to this article, the move by Washington,
“give the plaintiffs in the lawsuit–the owners of Ralph’s Thriftway pharmacy and two pharmacists–what they’ve wanted all along: the right to refuse to stock or dispense Plan B (the so-called “morning after pill”) based on their conscientious objection.”
Granted, the rule making process isn’t complete, so I can’t rail FULLY at Washington…yet. But here in a nutshell are the reasons why this is a very, very bad decision that cuts at the root of our ideals of being “a nation of laws, not of people.”
1. an individual will now have the right to deny virtually any service or product and merely have to assert conscientious objections.
2. In the case of pharmacists, they are adopting a role not legally theirs. A pharmacist is a gateway… a check and balance against unethical physician actions or perhaps erroneous prescriptions or dosages. It is not the role of the pharmacist to act as anything other than a gateway. Washington is bestowing on pharmacists the power to (effectively) legislate against any medical treatment they individually deem to be wrong.
3. Perhaps the worst part of this decision is that they seem to also be extending “conscientious objection” rights to the owners of the store.
To me, the bottom line is very simple. If you do not stock a drug for reasons that do not have to do with supply and demand, then you should not be allowed to claim (under state license) that you are a pharmacy. We expect certain things from our government entities, and as a license holder, pharmacists are an extension of a state regulation.
The article linked above positions the question as one of Washington “restricting” religious rights. It is clearly not so… the religious person who believes he should not use contraceptives doesn’t have to use them. The religious person who believes he shouldn’t propagate the spread of Plan B contraceptives doesn’t have to maintain his/her pharmacists license.
But the person who wants to be a pharmacist ought to be bound by law to distribute legitimately prescribed, legal pharmaceuticals. The religious right wants the right to act as legislator at every level of society by invoking religious tenets that do not pertain to all citizens. The real harm here is to our society, not to any religious person’s “right” to conscientiously object.