The consciousness objection of pharmacists

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Whereas Italia has just authorised the delivery of RU 486, Benedict XVI, on the occasion of the World Congress of physician international federation held in Poznan (Poland), called the pharmacists to put forward the clause of consciousness against the sale of products which undermine human life. “The pharmacist cannot renounce to the requirements of her/his consciousness in the name of the laws of market, or in the name of certain complaisant legislations“, he stated reminding that the economic saving should be subordinated to the respect of the moral law.

This call was greet with gratitude by the professionals who, in France, are the last ones among the health professionals to which the consciousness objection was refused. However this is a “fundamental human right which, precisely as a right, the civil law must recognise and protect1 as the same time as a duty: “when they [men] are called to collaborate to morally bad actions, they must refuse it2. Particularly as the admission of VTP “in town” places from now the pharmacists in the first line. “One would misunderstand that the pharmacist, now implicated, is the unique health professional to whom we do not recognise such a clause“, declared in 2002 the central council of the College of Pharmacists.

Pursuant to the civil law, abortive products are considered as drugs and can only be delivered by a pharmacist, who must have them in reserve. In case of inventory shortage, he/she must order them, without waiting for the demand. Moreover it is prohibited to the pharmacist to refuse to a consumer the sale of a product or a service, except for legitimate reason. The Court of Cassation pronounced a judgement in 1997 according which “personal convictions do not constitute for the pharmacist, titular of the monopoly of drug sale, a legitimate reason to refuse to sell…” This decision was confirmed by the European Court of Human Rights. In an order of 2nd of October 2001, it concluded that “from the moment the sale of this product is legal, is under medical prescription only and is mandatorily in the pharmacies, the petitioners must not make prevail and impose to others their religious convictions to justify the refusal of selling this product, the manifestation of abovementioned convictions which can be exerted in several manners outside the professional field“. In case of resistance to the law, the French Code of Consumer Law foresees a fine of €1,500 or €3,000 in the event of subsequent offence.

Whereas the physicians, nurses and midwives benefit from legal resort to the consciousness objection, such penalties obviously show a difference of treatment between health professionals.

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