Pharmacist Beliefs and Consumer Rights Clash Again
By George Anderson
Last week, a woman in Rhode Island went to a CVS pharmacy to have a prescription filled for the emergency contraceptive known as Plan B, aka the “morning after pill.”
The pharmacist behind the counter informed the woman that she would either have to return to the store later when another pharmacist was on duty or go to another drugstore to
have her prescription filled. The pharmacist would not fill the prescription based on moral grounds.
CVS has a policy to deal with such an eventuality. According to an Associated Press report, it allows pharmacists to personally fill a prescription but requires the pharmacist
to help the consumer find another source “without delay.”
As incidents such as the one in Rhode Island continue to happen, state governments and businesses that fill prescriptions are looking for answers to the dilemma.
Walgreens, as is the case with CVS, allows pharmacists to refuse to fill a prescription on moral grounds but also requires that the pharmacist assist the consumer in finding
an alternative source. The exception for Walgreen is in Illinois, where all pharmacists are required to fill prescriptions regardless of their beliefs. In Illinois, pharmacies
that sell contraceptives are required to fill prescriptions without delay.
The Jean Coutu Group, which owns Eckerd and Brooks, does not give pharmacists the option of refusing to fill prescriptions. Company policy requires pharmacists to fill all prescriptions
as a normal term of employment.
Moderator’s Comment: What is the answer to the continuing controversy over a consumer’s right to purchase legally prescribed pharmaceuticals and a pharmacist’s
decision to refuse based on moral grounds?
– George Anderson – Moderator