I note there is concern over the proposed changes in the conscience clause suggested by the General Pharmaceutical Council (
The Pharmaceutical Journal online, 22 December 2016). It seems to me that the first question to answer is whose beliefs should apply in such a situation, the pharmacist’s or the patient’s?
Patient-centred care suggests that a patient’s ethical framework should take precedence, otherwise the healthcare professional concerned is effectively imposing his or her beliefs on the patient. To send the patient elsewhere is, frankly, an act of sophistry since you are complicit in helping that person to get a service you believe to be immoral. Real respect for patients should entail respect for their moral code also, as long as they are seeking a service the pharmacy is qualified and indeed contracted to provide.
Belief is belief, not immutable fact. To insist that you are right and everyone else is wrong leads you down a dangerous road. On a practical level, in a city, referral onwards can, of course, work. That is not the case, for example for timely emergency hormonal contraception, in a remote rural area or island location.