Are Pharmacist's conscience clauses morally and professionally justified?
Williams, Robert H.
Thesis (M.A.L.S.)--Georgetown University, 2008.; Includes bibliographical references. The health care profession has become embroiled in a controversy over autonomy. Patients, claiming the right to autonomy over their own bodies, want to obtain legal prescription medications. Pharmacists, claiming the autonomy to conform their professional duties according to their own personal moral or religious beliefs, evoke a "conscience clause," and refuse to dispense the medication. The nature of these rights and the conflicts that have arisen between them will be examined in this thesis. The analysis will focus on pharmacist's "conscience clauses," and the refusal of pharmacists to dispense oral contraceptives. I will conduct an evaluation of the moral justification of pharmacist's conscience clauses based on general theories of ethics and specific theories of medical ethics. Pharmacists generally base their refusal to dispense contraceptives on religious beliefs and their definition of when human life begins. These considerations will be examined in the context of the physiological functions of prescription contraceptives. I will review professional codes of ethics, state legislation and court cases to assess any professional justifications for pharmacist conscience clauses. In conclusion, I will argue that pharmacist conscience clauses are neither morally nor professionally justified.; In general, the context for the patient and physician relationship in the United States has transitioned from paternalism (that is the general idea that doctor knows best) to enhanced patient autonomy. The evolution of patient autonomy will be discussed to provide a context for patient rights. I will argue that enhanced patient autonomy establishes standards for the medical profession that do not support pharmacist conscience clauses.; Provider rights have been established allowing physicians to opt out of performing services that violate their conscience. In advocating for conscience clauses, pharmacists accord themselves the same provider rights as physicians. I will establish that there is a substantial distinction between physicians and pharmacists who opt out of providing services. That distinction invalidates the use of physician conscience clauses to justify the establishment of similar clauses for pharmacists.
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