Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The War on Drugs with Warring Druggists

The things that become skirmishes in our so-called Culture Wars never cease to amaze me. In America's determination to infuse the most seemingly innocuous incidents into full-blown cultural touchstones, there is now a battle raging over whether pharmacists should have the right to refuse filling prescriptions opposed to their moral views.

Amanda Paulson with The Christian Science Monitor explains:

"It's a debate that weighs personal morals against professional responsibility. It pits religious rights against patients' rights and raises the question of just where pharmacists stand on the spectrum of health-care professionals.

Many pharmacists point to the 'conscience-clause' exceptions that nearly every state has in place for doctors, allowing them to recuse themselves from performing abortions or other procedures they object to. They believe they should have similar protection.

"Critics point out that filling a prescription is a very different job from writing one, and question whether pharmacists can deny a legal drug on moral grounds. And the patients who have been denied are simply angry to see their prescriptions become fodder for a public debate -- especially when the prescriptions they wanted filled were for something as time-sensitive as emergency contraceptives, often known as the morning-after pill."

So here's my take on it: If specific pharmaceuticals are stocked at a pharmacy, then the pharmacist should be obligated to fill the specific prescription. It seems unconscionable to me that a pharmacist would refuse to provide a morning-after pill to, say, a rape victim, a refusal that in itself is arguably a form of revictimization. Don't think that scenario is so far-fetched; it has reportedly happened in Texas, among other states.

If a Walgreens or CVS or Wal-Mart (sorry, LilRed) makes a corporate decision to forgo carrying certain prescriptions, so be it. I suspect that the free market will shake out the longevity of such short-sighted pharmacies (the tricky part, I suppose, is what to do in a rural community being served by only one drug store, but then again, folks in those parts always seem able to stock up in the ingredients they need for methamphetamine).

Ultimately, pharmacy fickleness just seems like a slippery slope (not to mention atrociously alliterative).

But whatever. These days, Americans are definitely in a confrontational sort of mood.

What's next? Should a drug store employee who considers homosexuality an abomination to God be allowed to refuse selling condoms to someone he or she presumes is gay?

Should grocery cashiers be allowed to refuse to wait on a morbidly obese shopper buying with nothing in the cart but doughnuts and fudge? After all, that cashier could argue a moral opposition to helping someone slowly kill himself or herself.

What about a cashier selling a pack of cigarettes to someone with a hacking cough? Should a hardcore atheist be allowed to refuse service to someone wearing a large crucifix?

Sell the goddamned pharmaceuticals.

It shouldn't stop you from stomping your feet and muttering your sanctimonious tsk-tsking under your breath, but c'mon: Enough already.


At 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooh. Or how about an obese parent buying their obese child Twinkies and sugary sodas? Isn't that child abuse? (These are the children whom I usually see sitting in the cart eating the Cheetos that Mom has yet to pay for. What's with people thinking they can snack on stuff that isn't yet theirs?)

At 9:29 AM, Blogger Ceres said...

Just tagging on...
If the policy of the major chains, like Walgreens, is to withhold certain drugs they shouldn't carry them AND they should make their policy loud and clear. Why wait for some poor woman to try and fill emergency contraception only to be faced with a moral sermon instead. There are plenty of independent pharmacists out there, you don't have to go to these major chains who THINK they have a conscience.

Great post as always Chase.

At 9:40 AM, Blogger Dr. Pants said...

You people are all insane. Pharmacists are exactly the people we want making moral judgments for us. They're wearing long coats, sometimes they have glasses and they stand in a slightly raised area.


And, since I know from experience that sarcasm doesn't always come through in print, the above was total bullshit. I thank you.

At 10:39 AM, Anonymous "Shrimpy Joe" Clamenza said...

I have no proof -- purely speculation, kids -- but it seems plausible that the Operation Rescue types are actively planting their people in pharmacies, and that this is not some grass-roots phenomenon. It's like the Christian Coalition's '90s movement to pack school boards with Church Ladies (a term applicable to the male candidates, as well).

As in any other legitimate profession, anyone who refuses to do his or her job (with the exception of strikes, natch) should be fired. There is one other issue associated with letting the free market "shake out the longevity of such short-sighted pharmacies." How many of these desperate people will walk away from "Jesus Rx" establishments knowing that they can go somewhere else to get their much-needed prescriptions filled? Besides, if it is CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreen's or Walley World hiring the lab-coated evangelists, and you live in a Red Zone, there might not be any choice.

Perhaps these companies could label their drug stores to reflect their unwillingness to follow through with basic medicinal needs. How about "Covenant Pharmacies"?

At 9:31 AM, Blogger aka_monty said...

Some people have nothing better to do than get in everyone else's business. So I guess if I didn't believe in pre-marital sex, I shouldn't have rented any hotel rooms to the obviously unmarried couples when I was in that business...


Post a Comment

<< Home