1920: Pharmacists being muzzled

There were concerns about the ‘muzzling’ of country town pharmacists in August 1920, meanwhile discussions were under way to develop a code of ethics for the profession

A recent case had brought to light the invidious position of many country town pharmacists when there was no available “medical man’ as reported in AJP August 1920.

“The advantage of having a pharmacist in a country town where there is no medical man is generally appreciated by local residents,” the article said.

“In such cases the position is not always a happy one for the pharmacist. He is frequently
asked to render first aid, and sometimes receives an urgent message to attend a serious case of accident or illness”.

“A case in point recently arose in Norseman, W.A. There is no doctor in the town, and the local chemist feels extremely diffident about exercising any functions which are reserved to the medical profession.”

“He stated his case to the Registrar of the Pharmaceutical Society, who sent on the particulars to the Medical Board. The Board replied, referring the chemist to section 23 of the Medical Act 1894, which sets out that no unregistered person may practise as a doctor”.

“This places the pharmacist in an extremely awkward position,” the article goes on to say.

“He must now refuse to attend medical cases, thus incurring a good deal of ill will. The pharmacist has no desire to pose as a medical man, but he is a competent and experienced man, and probably is quite capable of rendering valuable aid in case of accident or illness.

The law, however, says he must not practise medicine, and that being the case he must not treat medical cases, even although no medical man is available”.

Meanwhile, in the same issue, a US pharmacy leader set out the case for devising a “Code of Ethics for Pharmacists”.

In the article, Dr Robert P. Fischelis, editor of the Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association says that “pharmaceutical practice may be divided into two sections, namely, Professional Practice
and Business Practice”.

“The two really go hand in hand, he says, just as business and science must go hand in hand in all other professions if they are to be of value to the human race”.

“The pharmacist…. is a merchant, whether he sells side lines of a non-pharmaceutical nature or whether he sells his knowledge of dispensing, plus his experience in the preparation of drugs and medicines for the sick.

Why should these two functions be dissociated? There is no reason, says Dr. Fischelis, provided the pharmacist is “ethical” in both sections. He insists that whatever branch of pharmacy is being practised ethical considerations should prevail.

A code adopted by some of the American pharmaceutical associations was itself adapted by the writer to meet the requirements of Australian conditions.

It covers five key areas:

  1. Respecting the pharmacist himself
  2. Relations with wholesalers
  3. Relations with his fellow pharmacists
  4. The pharmacists relations with physicians
  5. Relations with customers

You can see some of the August 1920 issue below by clicking on the picture:

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