Religious Beliefs and Professional Ethics
By George Anderson
Neil Noesen, a pharmacist from St. Paul, Minn. has strong religious convictions and that put him in a court of law in front of a judge.
Mr. Noesen, who was employed by a placement agency working as a temporary pharmacist, found himself in court after refusing in July 2002 to fill a prescription for birth control pills for Amanda Phiede, then a University of Wisconsin-Stout student.
The pharmacist, a devout Roman Catholic, who believes filling a prescription for birth control pills is sinful, had made his views known to his employer before accepting the job as a replacement in a Kmart store. The placement agency had not informed Kmart of Mr. Noesen’s religious objections.
When Ms. Phiede brought her prescription to the store, Mr. Noesen inquired if they were for birth control purposes. He refused to fill the prescription after being told they were.
Ms. Phiede then went to a nearby Wal-Mart to have the prescription filled, but Mr. Noesen refused to transfer it when that store’s pharmacist called.
After hearing testimony in the case, Administrative Law Judge Colleen Baird recommended that Mr. Noesen be reprimanded by the state’s Pharmacy Examining Board for his actions and ordered him to attend ethics classes and pay for the costs of the court’s proceedings.
Mr. Noesen’s attorney, Krystal Williams-Oby, said the judge exceeded her authority since Wisconsin does not address this issue in state law. The state’s Pharmacy Examining Board also does not have rules establishing proper procedure in such instances, said the lawyer.
Judge Baird said Mr. Noesen would be required to notify any pharmacy where he may work in the future about what practices he will not perform as a matter of conscience to ensure “a patient’s access to medication is not impeded” by his beliefs.
Moderator’s Comment: Should a pharmacist be required to fill a prescription even if it is against his/her religious beliefs?
While in a perfect world we agree a pharmacist shouldn’t be required to fill a prescription for a medication against her/his religious beliefs, this is
one of those slippery slope issues. What if this were to happen in a rural area where the next available pharmacist was many miles away? What if pharmacists or other retail workers
objected on religious grounds to sell another product? Many religions prohibit the drinking of alcohol. Should a Buddhist or Baptist clerk be allowed to refuse to sell beer to
an adult because their religious beliefs or a member of the clergy tells them they shouldn’t? –
George Anderson – Moderator
- Judge recommends reprimand, training for St. Paul pharmacist – The
Associated Press/Duluth News Tribune