I've just read an article on the BBC News website that reports how The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is to take over the regulation of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and the registration of pharmacy premises from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society later this year. Apparently, under its new code pharmacists with strong religious principles will still be able to continue to refuse to sell or prescribe products if they feel that doing so would contradict their beliefs. This is down to something called the "conscience clause" that is in place for those few pharmacists who feel their religious beliefs would be undermined by giving out contraception.
I find it highly amusing that it's called a conscience clause; is that because of the lack of conscience being shown, or because those few people refusing to issue out prescribed contraception need to pretend they have a conscience?
If a member of the public is prescribed contraception by their GP then who is a pharmacist to tell them that they cannot have their prescription? Who are they to dictate what another individual may or may not do? I would personally be infuriated if any of my prescription was denied because the person handing it out doesn't agree with what the prescription is for. Who are they to judge somebody else? I mean, sure they may have their personal (backwards) beliefs that contraception is evil and they may personally choose never to use it - good luck with that; but they shouldn't expect complete strangers to also do the same, that's none of their business to expect that.
The BBC article mentions how the GPhC says pharmacists who refuse services could be obliged to tell patients where they can access them, but I don't think they've really thought this through. Personally, I rely on one pharmacy that is in walking distance of my home. If that pharmacy were to refuse me my prescription I wouldn't be able to get anywhere else to get my medication without having to bother family and friends to come and collect me. I don't think this so called "conscience clause" takes into account the fact that many of it's patients (if not all of them) go to a certain pharmacy because it's more convenient.
I see this as being on par with a cashier refusing to sell alcohol or non-halal meat to a customer because of their personal beliefs. Where does the line lay? Or has it already been crossed? Personally, I think it's already been crossed.
I am hugely surprised that the GPhC would allow this to happen; sure, they say that they're going to revise this because they're aware of it being controversial. I would wonder though why a company would allow themselves to be seen as so close minded and judging of their customers. It's disgusting.