Debate:Should pharmacists be forced to fill legal prescriptions they personally object to on moral grounds?

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Pharmacists are expected to fill any valid, legal prescription issued by a physician. However, dispensing some drugs, like Plan-B, puts some pro-life pharmacists into a personal moral dilemma. If they do not fill the prescription they are interfering with a doctor-patient relationship, but if they do, they are facilitating something they consider immoral.


Pharmacists made a choice to work in that profession, and that choice comes with an obligation to support doctor-patient relationships instead of interfering with them. They have no right to prevent a valid, legal prescription from being filled just because they object to it on a personal level. If they can't find employment in a scenario where they will never face that choice, then they need to find another way to make a living. --DinsdaleP 15:49, 16 June 2008 (EDT)

Well, there's a difference between not personally filling a prescription and preventing it from being filled, I'd say. If a pharmacist has moral objections, and stands aside so another pharmacist can fill the prescription, I think that's a lot different than actively stopping someone from receiving a prescription. --Benp 16:53, 16 June 2008 (EDT)
That only works when there's a non-objecting pharmacist on hand to fill the prescription, so if you're in a one-person pharmacy or they all have the same convictions you're out of luck. When there's no other option the prescription should be filled.
As an aside, I'd think I could safely place a bet that the same pharmacists who object to filling Plan-B prescriptions have no problem ringing up cigarettes for their customers. You never see an outcry from smokers who can't get cashiers to sell them tobacco.--DinsdaleP 17:11, 16 June 2008 (EDT)
As I see it, the issue isn't whether the pharmacist has the right to refuse to act against his conscience. Of course he has that right. The issue is whether his employer has the right to fire an employee who refuses to perform the duties for which he was hired. Again, I say: of course the employer has that right. Sometimes, acting according to your conscience carries consequences. If someone worked in the PR department of a tobacco company, and decided that their conscience required them to put the words "OUR PRODUCT WILL KILL YOU!" in every PR release, I would applaud the courage required to put conscience ahead of career--but I would also support the right of the company to fire that person for not doing the job he was hired to do. --Benp 17:18, 16 June 2008 (EDT)
How about a doctor who works at an abortion clinic, who refuses to perform an abortion, because he is pro-life? That would just be stupid, and the same goes for pharmacists. Do your job or find another one. Etc 17:19, 16 June 2008 (EDT)

Lawyers defend murderers and the like, police will arrest people when I am sure sometimes they disagree with the law they are upholding, Army generals make descions that they may have moral problems with...why should pharmacists be any differant. If you cant stand the heat..... AdenJ 17:24, 16 June 2008 (EDT)

Army generals make descions that they may have moral problems with...Ah yes, the Nuremberg defence. "I voz only follovink orders..." Bugler 17:27, 16 June 2008 (EDT)

Thats irrelevant. How about lawyers? AdenJ 17:28, 16 June 2008 (EDT)

Lawyers decline to defend murderers who refuse to plead guilty. Lawyers may defend people accused of murder, who may or may not be murderers, There is a difference. Bugler 17:33, 16 June 2008 (EDT)

(unindent) I suppose I should refine the premise somewhat. A store has the right to sell or not sell a given product, including any type of prescription drug. If Drugstore X has a "no Plan-B" sales policy that's their right, just as they don't have to sell tobacco or adult magazines. If they do offer it for sale, then there should be a way for a patient to get it filled during business hours regardless of who's on duty - Plan-B has a short time window of effectiveness, so telling a customer to come back later can have consequences. A pharmacist who keeps a patient from getting a med when it's available is interfering with the doctor-patient relationship, and should be fired. The only legitimate intervention a pharmacist should be concerned with is drug interactions. I don't want them deciding what I should or shouldn't take because of their personal values, whether it's Plan-B, morphine, etc. --DinsdaleP 17:46, 16 June 2008 (EDT)

And, as Bugler pointed out gods law, we live in a society of laws and one of them is that you can fire someone for not doing thier job. Gods law is irrelevant here. My employer could fire me for a transgression, gods law or not. Also, its the doctors that make these descions, not pharamcists as DinsdaleP points out. AdenJ 17:49, 16 June 2008 (EDT)

Yes! The pharmacist has no right to interfere in someone else's life. I may find vanity morally objectionable, but that doesn't mean I should block your right to purchase Crest Whitestrips.JPohl

A pharmacist is meant to be a PROFESSIONAL and has a duty to his client to ensure the drug provided is proper treatment and has no bad interactions with other drugs prescribed and no safety concerns with a patients other conditions. They are a additional support and check on the Doctor. If the drug is legal and properly prescribed then the Pharmacist has a professional responsibility to provide it. If they can make choices on personal moral grounds then they could decide that an alcoholic should not get treatment, a women could be prevented from contraceptives and that sort of thing.

  • Yes. If Christian pharmacists can refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives and keep their jobs, then Buddhist soldiers can refuse to fire at people and keep their jobs. Jehovah's Witness surgeons can refuse to perform a blood transfusion, and keep their jobs. You know what your job is going to entail, if you're not prepared to do it, don't take that job. MrGrieves 21:28, 31 July 2008 (EDT)
  • yes: I think it's important that pharmacists who have moral objections be allowed to do what they can to avoid something they object to, but if it comes down to it, the doctor prescribed a medication based on his or her best understanding of the situation. I have read stories of Pharmacists refusing to give women Birth Control, but they do not know *why* the woman needed it. there are medical conditions that require birth control, including some that are very serious like debilitating crams and blood loss. Conditions which have nothing to do with a woman having sex or not, or wanting a child or not. If arrangements can be made, say another pharmacist, they should get to say "you do it". but if no alternative exists, their job is to fill prescriptions written by doctors. --JeanJacques 18:21, 28 October 2008 (EDT)
  • Yes: I know this debate has been pretty quiet for a while, but I wanted to chime in anyway. I can understand why a good Christian pharmacist would be reluctant to dispense things like plan B, but I believe that someone who chooses to become a pharmacist should be prepared to dispense all drugs that their employer desires them to that are presented by patients with legitimate scripts. If a pharmacist has a moral objection to Plan B (or condoms, or anything else,) they should find a pharmacy that chooses not to stock those items. I do not think that employers should be required to hire people who cannot fulfill the duties of their position -- and even though religious belief is a protected class, it's okay (at least under US and California law) to discriminate against protected classes if their membership in that protected class interferes with their ability to do what you are hiring them for. You don't have to hire a Muslim to be your butcher if your facility processes pigs, nor do you have to hire a Hindu to be your butcher if your facility processes cows. You don't have to hire a Scientologist to be a neurologist in your hospital if his religious belief causes him to believe all migraines are psychosomatic, nor do you have to hire a devout Christian Scientist if you work at a blood bank. You can do any of these things if you desire -- but legally requiring an employer to do so infringes on their rights. (If I ran a pharmacy, I would not force my pharmacists to fill any scripts they weren't comfortable with, though. I just think employers should have the option to do so.) TGeary 20:59, 12 November 2008 (EST)


Christian - or other religion - pharmacists who feel that the handing out of contraceptive pills would encourage or facilitate pre-marital or extra-marital intercourse are not only within their rights, but indeed fulfilling their moral and religious duties, in declining to co-operate. Bugler 17:22, 16 June 2008 (EDT)

Buddy, if they think they might have to handle and give out drugs they think are morally wrong, they shouldn't go for the job in the first place. If they do decide to do so they need to realize their mistake of taking the job and then either do their job or quit. If one could always claim that moral and religious duties came before their employment duties, people could get away with a lot of bad crap. If I worked at Starbucks but felt that a specific frappoccino (probably spelled that wrong) was against my religion and I refused to make and give it to people on those grounds, people would disapprove of that and I'd probably get my ass fired in the meantime. AShep 00:23, 23 June 2011 (EDT)

A pharmacist is not a machine. He is a human being dispensing certain materials that, used improperly, are highly dangerous. If he has any reason to believe that a prescribing physician has failed to account for the dangers, moral or other, of any prescription, he has the right—he has the duty—not to fill that prescription.

Some of the very ones wanting pharmacists to behave as though they were little more than "automatic pharmacy machines" would likely be among the first to scream for the scalp of any pharmacist who had the bad luck, or the bad sense, to fill a prescription for Viagra (sildenafil/Pfizer) for an elderly man who then died of a heart attack in the arms of his illicit mistress that very evening. Or if those activists did not so scream, then his widow's attorney might.--TerryHTalk 17:28, 16 June 2008 (EDT)

Well said, Terry. Bugler 17:34, 16 June 2008 (EDT)
However, gentlemen, let me pose this question to you: do I, as an employer, have the right to make it clear to prospective employees that I expect them to fulfill certain obligations, and then to fire them if they fail to fulfill those obligations? In short, if I hire someone with the understanding that he will fill all lawful prescriptions, and then he does not, should I be required to continue to employ him? --Benp 17:37, 16 June 2008 (EDT)
God's law should have priority over that of Caesar. Bugler 17:39, 16 June 2008 (EDT)
I'm very uneasy with that line of argument, Bugler. It sounds good in theory, but in practice, it leads to problems. Should a Muslim pharmacist have the right to deny prescriptions based on religious faith, for instance? What about an orthodox Jewish pharmacist who notes that certain medications technically violate the laws of Kosher? And again, should I as an employer be required to employ those whose conscience prevents them from doing the job I want done? --Benp 17:51, 16 June 2008 (EDT)
But wasn't that the whole principle behind "render unto Caesar...", that you can have dual obligations? Anyway, it's the doctor who is supposed to be ensuring a medication is appropriate for a patient, and aside from interaction-checks, a pharmacist is not supposed to second-guess the decisions of doctors. --DinsdaleP 17:52, 16 June 2008 (EDT)
Going back to Terry's original point, a pharmacist could not be sued for dispensing a prescribed drug (Viagra in your example) to a patient, even if the patient died as a result of a side-effect of that drug, unless the pharmacist was negligent (that is to say, unless the pharmacist dispensed his viagra script at the same time he dispensed a nitrate to the guy, and he died as a result of an interaction between the two that the pharmacist should have picked up on but did not.) Giving Viagra to a really old guy might have been a bad call on the behalf of the old man's doctor, and it's possible the doctor could be sued for malpractice over it -- but the pharmacist could not be sued for it. TGeary 20:59, 12 November 2008 (EST)
True, true, but a pharmacist refusing to give out a verified, completely safe drug to the appropriate age group against the wishes of the doctor could be sued. Just like if a nurse yanks out someone's life support because he/she thinks he/she is a sinner

Pharmacists cannot be forced to fill any prescription, period. Nor can any person be forced to do anything that violates their freedom of conscience. Like consciensuous objectors that aren't required to serve in a position that might require them to kill another person. Or medical personel put into a position that requires them to participate in the killing of an unborn baby or the euthanasia (assisted suicide) of another person. That's if you live in the United States of America of course.--Roopilots6 11:12, 21 June 2008 (EDT)

Correct. On the other hand, if I am the owner of the pharmacy, I should not be required to employ a person who cannot or will not do the job I need done. That's the issue here. While the pharmacist is free to choose to follow or not follow their conscience, Big Government has no right to compel employers to hire or retain that pharmacist. If someone joins the Army voluntarily with the understanding that the job will involve fighting, and then refuses to fight when the time comes on the grounds that it violates their conscience, you'd better believe there are consequences for that...consequences a lot more serious than simply losing a job. --Benp 13:13, 21 June 2008 (EDT)
Like court martialing, or death, if you are killed by the enemy
No. Saying you can't work here as a Pharmacist because of your religious beliefs isn't correct. When 'the job to be done' is infanticide or euthanasia then nobody can 'force' you to commit or assist in either action. Without fear of consequences or retribution. If someone denies you employment because of your convictions not to destroy another persons life then you better believe then they will suffer a serious consequence for their actions. Also, individuals can be legally excempted from military service due to their moral or religious convictions if they can prove their beliefs are longstanding ones. Refusing to serve due to a political stance however is not legal. The filling of a legally precribed drug isn't something you can 'force' a Pharmicist to do. It is legal for you to go to another pharmacy that does carry drugs that end life. What is being suggested here is that you can 'force' someone to do something that is against their will. Do you want to live in a society like that?--Roopilots6 09:00, 22 June 2008 (EDT)
Employment in most cases is "at will", unless there's an underlying contract. This means that the employee has the right to resign, and the the employer has the right to fire, "at will", provided that no laws are being broken (you can't fire based on race, gender, etc.). The owner of a pharmacy has every right to screen potential employees based on their willingness to fill any legal, valid prescription presented - that's the business after all, and someone who is not able or willing to help the company operate legally does not have to be hired. A pharmacist does not have to be forced to fill a legal prescription they are morally opposed to, but they cannot force a drugstore to hire them, either. --DinsdaleP 06:16, 23 June 2008 (EDT)
Actually, in the USA, if the employer violates anti-discrimatory law by not accepting an employee due to their religious convictions, then they may be forced to hire them anyway. Because that is the law. You cannot willfully exclude an otherwise qualified candidate for a position due to their religious convictions. Just like a Muslim that won't handle pork products at their job in a grocery store but will be able to handle just about every other task. Some people assume that you can now begin to exclude people from society because of their religious beliefs. This is incorrect. Unless you live under the tyranny of any number of totalitarian nations that still are able to exist.--Roopilots6 10:22, 25 June 2008 (EDT)
The key to the employment rules is that religion may not be used to discriminate, provided the candidate is otherwise able to perform the required duties of the job. For example, it's not discrimination to turn down a candidate who won't work on a Saturday or Sunday sabbath, when the position requires working weekend hours. If a drugstore only staffs one pharmacist on duty at a time, and by policy they fill all valid prescriptions, then it's not discrimination to refuse to hire someone who refuses to fill certain prescriptions based n their religious views - if there's no one else on site to do it, the operation of the business and customer relationships are disrupted. No one is trying to exclude religious people from society, but people do not have a right to be paid for not performing the required duties of a job. --DinsdaleP 09:54, 27 June 2008 (EDT)
Actually, in the USA, if the employer violates anti-discrimatory law by not accepting an employee due to their religious convictions, then they may be forced to hire them anyway. Because that is the law."
Okay. My newly founded religion i just founded says I can only give out cyanide tablets to people. I fuffill the requirments to be hired as a pharmasist in other factors. So you're saying the law says the employer has to hire me?
The question here is not whether big-government interventionism in areas not permitted to it by the Constitution exists; of course it does. Attempting to dictate to an employer that they must hire a less-fit candidate (one who cannot or will not perform all of the tasks associated with the position) over a more fit candidate (one who can and will do the same) is pure liberal big-government interventionism. The question is whether it should exist. I say that, manifestly, it should not. Moreover, as Dinsdale points out, there are (happily) limits on this form of interventionism. The owner of a non-Kosher deli cannot be compelled to convert his entire deli to a Kosher one so that an orthodox Jew can work there; nor can he be compelled to hire that same orthodox Jew when the latter indicates that he will not handle the merchandise because it is non-Kosher.
A pharmacist who refuses to fill certain lawful prescriptions is less fit for the job than one who does not refuse to fill those prescriptions. Any government policy forcing an employer to hire him would simply be Affirmative Action in a pretty poor disguise.--Benp 10:47, 27 June 2008 (EDT)
A pharmacist is perfectly within his rights to refuse to fill a prescription based on a moral objection. However, the employer is also perfectly within his rights to fire such an employee. --Tim (CPAdmin1)talk Vote in my NEW polls 11:16, 27 June 2008 (EDT)
So now we are reframing the question to should the employer, of a pharmacist, be forced to make their employee, the pharmacist, fill any prescription they object to? I have a question whether an Orthodox Jew would wish to seek employment at a non-Kosher deli? I'm pretty sure they wouldn't unless someone was trying to 'force' them. You can't exclude any person due to there observance of religious days. This isn't the application of reverse discrimination or the filling of quotas, a.k.a. affirmative action. This is merely the protection of a citizens rights as outlined in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. The equal application under the law to anyone irregardless of their beliefs. If an employee tells their employer they can't work on such days that are religiously observed by them and then the employer tells them they must work on those days or they will be fired, quess what? The employee may sue the employer. Some people don't like having to accomodate another person's religious practices. That's why there have to be laws to protect our rights to practice our beliefs without being persecuted by our employer, public servants, and the rest of society. Which is one of the main reasons so many people either want to come to the United States and why so many Americans are thankful for being so blessed.--Roopilots6 11:20, 28 June 2008 (EDT)


"Irrespective" or "regardless," please. "Irregardless" isn't a word.

You're quite correct: an Orthodox Jew would be foolish to seek employment in a non-Kosher deli, because working there without violating the tenets of his faith would cause him serious problems. Likewise, a pharmacist who is morally opposed to filling legal prescriptions (regardless of what those specific prescriptions may be) would be foolish to seek employment in a pharmacy that fills those prescriptions.

A pharmacist who finds the substances dispensed by a given pharmacy morally objectionable should not seek employment at that pharmacy. He should instead seek out an employer whose morals are compatible with his own. When I was in college, I refused to work in a number of establishments that sold lottery tickets, because I consider gambling to be sinful. Had I instead chosen to accept employment at such an establishment, would I have been justified in complaining when they expected me to sell lottery tickets?

Keep in mind also that such Big Government intervention works both ways--not just when the employee's views are in line with our own. If the government stepped in to force a pro-life pharmacy owner to continue to employ a pharmacist who was giving referrals to Planned Parenthood on the grounds that his faith compelled him to be up-front with them about their options, would you applaud? Or would you say that the employer should be able to terminate such an employee? --Benp 11:54, 28 June 2008 (EDT)

Was that a ad hominem attack? I found plenty of definitions for those words. Just because your etymological dictionary doesn't have a word won't negate the fact that it is a word. Diachronic linguistics has shown that words are changing constantly. I like these words and will continue to use them whenever necessary. Or any other nonstandard words, terms, or phrases that I feel will convey the appropriate message.--Roopilots6 11:15, 29 June 2008 (EDT)
Pointing out to someone that they are making a common grammatical error is hardly an ad hominem attack. Mr. Schlafly himself points out such errors all the time. The fact that language is dynamic does not change the fact that there are generally-agreed upon standards. You are, of course, perfectly free to flout those standards if you so choose; however, the message that you are likely to convey in so doing is a lack of facility with standard English. Someone who insists on using "ain't" on a resume, on the grounds that it's a word and he has a right to use it, is still likely to get his job application tossed in the circular file in short order. --Benp 16:29, 29 June 2008 (EDT)

I would say what I've been saying all along throughout this debate. The key to this that seems to have blown past just about everyone here is the 'being forced' part. It has nothing to do with "Big Government" and instead has everything to do with individual rights. Evidently this is something not taught in the school systems these days. It has to do with inalienable rights endowed by a Creator. Anybody ever heard of those?

Yes. Moreover, I can enumerate them. Allow me to point out that, contrary to the beliefs of a great many people today, those inalienable rights do not include the "right to employment." As an aside, I truly wish that all of those who feel the need to talk about their "Constitutional rights" would take the time to become educated on precisely what those rights are; the level of ignorance in this country concerning the supreme law of the land is shocking.

You cannot be forced to do anything, and I mean nobody can force you to do anything that's against your own conscience. Because it is against the law! It is against the law because it violates your inumerated rights as defined by the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.

As a matter of fact, it does not. Could you please show me where in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights the right to "not do anything that's against your own conscience" is spelled out? In fact, there are many things that you can be forced to do, regardless of whether they're "against your own conscience." Someone who decides that taxes are morally wrong and therefore refuses to pay them is quite likely to go to jail for doing so. Someone whose conscience tells them that a suspected rapist who gets out on a technicality deserves to die, and shoots said rapist, is still going to face severe legal consequences. During time of war, those whose conscience leads them to give material aid and comfort to the enemy can face consequences up to and including execution as a result.

The Pharmacist that has worked in a position for years or a couple decades cannot then be forced to then dispense a drug that violates their conscience. I would applaud if only some people would get this. The employee that has worked in a position for years or decades shouldn't have to be 'forced' or coerced to do anything they deem to be wrong just because of some political wind change. Nothin to do with big government, or affirmative action, but just plain 'ol common sense basic rights necessary for a civil society that affords equal protections under the law of the land.--Roopilots6 10:19, 29 June 2008 (EDT)

So you don't believe the employer has the basic right to decide who he will or will not employ. Thank you for clarifying that. --Benp 16:29, 29 June 2008 (EDT)
Let's say, Roo, that I am a doctor. In fact, let's make it even more specific. Let's say I'm Terry Schiavo's doctor. I, as her doctor, listen to her husband who says she doesn't want to be on a feeding tube, and so I take out the tube. Then, let's say the FL legislature passed a law stating she has to be put back on the feeding tube. But I, as her doctor, believe it is wrong to go against what I believe her wishes are. Would you agree with my decision not to reinsert her feeding tube. I mean, I've been a doctor for years, and I can't be forced to do something I believe is wrong just because of some political wind change. Would you applaud my decision to stand firm on my beliefs, or would you expect me to follow the law and expect me to carry out the duties of my job? --Jareddr 10:24, 29 June 2008 (EDT)
To do no harm. Isn't that one of the oaths doctors take? The right of Terry Schiavo to live will supplant any doctor's lack ethics. The instance of Terry Schiavo that anybody with a shred of compassion could see was there wasn't a family consensus to end her life. That it can't be seen that the differance between forcing someone to kill or forcing someone not to kill is probably a moral dilema that some cannot fathom. It only proves that you can shop around for a lawyer, or a judge, or even a doctor who will euthanize anybody for any reason and is therefore a mute point. Again I'll say this one more time then that you cannot force an individual to do something that violates their conscience. Whether they are a murderer or not is still up to them. By the way, the laws created by men sometimes violate those rights. Remember that everything Hitler did he made it legal (in German law) first.--Roopilots6 11:15, 29 June 2008 (EDT)
Oh, so a family consensus is necessary to end someone's life? Interesting. Of course, legally the family's consensus means squat. What the judge was enforcing wasn't the "family's consensus" but rather, the will of Terry Schiavo.
According to your rationale, I assume you support all the "draft-dodgers" of Vietnam? And the soldiers who have refused to fight in Iraq?--Jareddr 11:46, 29 June 2008 (EDT)
I suggest you find out the whole story about Terry Schindler. But yes, a family consensus should be a legitimate constraint. That's why I wrote the last sentence of my last comment. Your way off base on the draft dodgers which has absolutely nothing to do with what this debate is supposed to be about. The topic is about forcing someone, in this case a pharmacist from doing something that violates their own conscience. If you want to debate about draft dodgers, or Terry. Nothing to do with not letting an employer hire who they want either. This is all about whether you or anybody can force a Pharmacist to give you something that will violate his conscience. The answer to that is that you can't for the reasons I've already spent too much time trying to explain to people who don't want to know. I didn't spend thirteen years as a Marine Infantryman to be called a supporter of all draft dodgers either. You are way off base on that one too.--Roopilots6 18:53, 29 June 2008 (EDT)

No one should be forced to do something they find objectionable but they're going to find slim pickings in the job market if they can't suck it up close their eyes and hand the bottle away. GoSweden