MANCHESTER, England (CNS) — In a U-turn of proposed policy, Britain’s pharmacy regulator has declared that Catholic pharmacists should not be forced to dispense lethal drugs against their consciences.
The General Pharmaceutical Council, the regulatory body that sets professional standards for the industry throughout the country, has backed away from controversial proposals to abolish the right of people with religious convictions to conscientiously object to dispensing the morning-after pill, contraceptives and hormone-blocking drugs used by transsexual patients.
In new guidance issued June 22, it says: “Professionals have the right to practice in line with their religion, personal values or beliefs as long as they act in accordance with equalities and human rights law and make sure that person-centered care is not compromised.”
“It is important that pharmacy professionals work in partnership with their employers and colleagues to consider how they can practice in line with their religion, personal values and beliefs without compromising care,” the guidance said.
“This includes thinking in advance about the areas of their practice which may be affected and making the necessary arrangements, so they do not find themselves in the position where a person’s care could be compromised,” it continued. “Pharmacy professionals should keep in mind the difference between religion, personal values or beliefs, and a professional clinical judgement.”
The initial proposals, published by the council in December, sought to “shift the balance” away from the rights of pharmacists to work according to their consciences to “the needs and rights of the person in their care.”
The plans were criticized by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and the Anscombe Bioethics Center, a Catholic institute serving the Catholic Church in the U.K. and Ireland as a threat to the religious freedom of the pharmacists.
Anscombe warned the council that Christians would be effectively prohibited from practicing in the pharmacy profession.
Helen Watt, senior research fellow for Anscombe, welcomed the new guidance, but said that it still went too far in trying to compel pharmacists to act against their consciences.
“It is good to see some mention of employment rights and the positive role of ‘religion, personal values and beliefs’ in serving a diverse population,” she said in a June 23 email to Catholic News Service.
“However, the guidance is still very worrying in the extent to which it expects pharmacists to act against their values and beliefs and their own professional ethic,” she said.
“That includes situations where the pharmacist objects to a ‘service’ which far from being health care is positively harmful to health,” she said, adding: “The suggestion is still that the pharmacist should either refer for or sometimes even provide the very ‘service’ to which he or she objects.”
The Christian Institute, an ecumenical group, said in a June 22 press release that the council recognized a pharmacist’s right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion was protected by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The group had threatened to mount a legal challenge against the council if it scrapped conscience protections.
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103