An Internet storm is caused by a US pharmacist’s refusal to supply, but could it also happen in Australia?
A US woman says she was publicly shamed and left in tears after a pharmacist refused to fulfil her prescription for miscarriage-inducing medicine for “ethical” reasons.
Nicole Mone Arteaga, 35, posted her account of the incident on Facebook, where it has been shared more than 30,000 times, liked more than 50,000 times and generated 14,0000 comments.
Ms Mone Artega, was prescribed an undisclosed miscarriage-inducing medication after finding out her eight-week old foetus was lacking a heartbeat.
However when she went into a Walgreens pharmacy in Peoria, Arizona, pharmacist Brian Hreniuc refused to fill her prescription because he is anti-abortion.
“(Mr Hreniuc) asks me if I’m pregnant, (to) which I say yes and he tells me: ‘I’m not giving you this one. I can’t give you this one,” she told a US television network.
“I stood at the mercy of this pharmacist explaining my situation in front of my 7 year old, and five customers standing behind only to be denied because of his ethical beliefs,” Ms Mone Arteaga wrote on June 23, according to News Limited sources.
“I left Walgreens in tears, ashamed and feeling humiliated by a man who knows nothing of my struggles but feels it is his right to deny medication prescribed to me by my doctor”.
Closer to home, the Pharmacy Board of Australia Code of Conduct says that good practice is to not allow “moral or religious views to deny patients or clients access to healthcare, recognising that practitioners are free to decline to provide or participate in that care personally”.
The Board says that pharmacists must, if they object conscientiously to supplying a product, inform patients or clients and, if relevant, colleagues of the objection, and not use that objection to impede access to treatments that are legal.
PSA national president Dr Shane Jackson said the approach in Australia is to encourage pharmacists to be “pragmatic not dogmatic”, told AJP.
“People are within their rights to refuse to supply these products themselves however they do need to be mindful of their obligations to provide information and support to patients and to ensure continuity of care,” he said.
According to the PSA code of ethics Care principle 2: “A pharmacist: informs the patient when exercising the right to decline provision of certain forms of health care based on the individual pharmacist’s conscientious objection, and in such circumstances, appropriately facilitates continuity of care for the patient”.
In it’s specific guidance document for S3 emergency contraception (levonorgestrel and ulipristal), PSA states that: “In the event that an out-of-stock situation or moral belief of a pharmacist leads to the non-supply of a product or service, the pharmacist must accept responsibility for ensuring continuity of care – that is, timely access to the required medicine or service.
This may involve the use of initiative to identify another reasonably available source for the required medicine or service, particularly in rural or remote areas or in other situations where access to alternate service providers may be limited”.
Arizona state law allows pharmacists to deny prescriptions based on moral or religious grounds. It is one of only six states to have that law, the News Limited article stated.
Walgreens’ corporate office is reportedly investigating the incident but admitted Ms Mone Arteaga should have been immediately referred to another employee within the store.