[PR] Conscience clause for pharmacists: stop ideological pressure

Alliance VITA is strongly opposed to the ideological pressure being imposed on pharmacists, who for a large majority wish to introduce a conscience clause in their Code of Ethics. VITA is calling for a calm, reasonable and honest discussion with respect to the freedom of conscience for professionals faced with acts “liable of endangering human life”.

While a survey coordinated by the CSA showed that 85% of pharmacists wish to have a conscience clause in their Code of Ethics, a controversy has been triggered, echoed by the Minister Laurence Rossignol. Contraception issues, morning-after pills, medical abortions, kits for euthanasia or assisted suicide are evoked one by one in a very confusing manner.

The right to conscientious objection has become an unavoidable topic, for at least three reasons:

  1. Our right to health conceals a major discrepancy which constitutes an injustice: whereas the conscience clause is widely recognized in cases of voluntary interruption of pregnancy – for doctors, mid-wives, even for all the medical auxiliaries who are less directly involved in infringements on human life, for example speech therapists, or physiotherapists – this clause is not yet recognized for pharmacists, who are thereby being discriminated against.
  2. Some recent changes in the practice of the pharmacist’s profession have exacerbated this injustice: the evolution of techniques and legislation now put them on the front line whenever the delivery of ethically sensitive products is at issue, especially those which provoke “medical voluntary interruption of pregnancy”; such as RU 486 (day-after pill). These voluntary interruptions of pregnancy are performed more and more “at home”, outside of a hospital environment (approximately 40,000 per year*). Only pharmacists are allowed to deliver these abortive products, and one cannot deny that their unique purpose is to “terminate a human life”.

Furthermore, as mentioned by the president of the Order of Pharmacists, this profession legitimately fears being confronted by the issue of lethal products designed for euthanasia or assisted suicide. These fears are legitimate in the rare countries where these practices are legal and where conscientious objection is denied; as well as the ambiguity of the recent end-of-life law on the presiding intent of terminal sedation.

Alliance VITA calls for the respect of freedom of conscience for all health professionals confronted with acts “liable to endanger human life”.

Tugdual Derville, General Delegate for VITA notes:

« The freedom of conscience, as well as the right to the objection of conscience which ensues, are essential principles pertinent to universal human rights. Nothing can obscure them. The recognition of a conscience clause is even more necessary today for pharmacists since their profession has introduced growing personal responsibility for public health and its users. Because of this controversy, the smear campaign orchestrated at the last minute demanding for the government to eliminate the conscience clause which exists for other health professionals is contemptible, all the more so, when the ministers respond with complacency. If the large majority of pharmacists are demanding a conscience clause, it is because they are in direct contact with the social hardships which necessitate dialogue and to be treated humanely. Exercising one’s freedom of conscience is a fundamental requirement in these situations. Pharmacists should not be considered as automatic robotic dispensers. That’s why one needs to let the members of this profession, who are in close contact with the people, reflect without any outside pressure, as to what seems to be most desirable for practicing their invaluable role.”