Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Doing One's Duty

Most people have heard of the Hippocratic oath. Physicians traditionally took the oath upon graduation. Some parts of the oath are less applicable today; I think a lot of people would object to swearing in the name of a bunch of Greek gods. And while some doctors may not want to perform abortions, I think that it's unlikely that anyone is going to prescribe insertion of a silicone ring as a method of doing so. You get the idea.

But did you know that there's a pharmacist's oath? And a written code of ethics?

The oath is pretty brief. But that's good. It's concise. Here's what it comes down to: You, as a pharmacist, have obligated yourself to serve people. You're going to do this by knowing lots of stuff about drugs.

Likewise, the code of ethics is pretty to the point. You're going to serve patients, and you're going to do your best to be fair about it. You're going to respect and utilize the knowledge of other professionals. And you're going to respect your patients' autonomy.

So why do so many pharmacists think that it's somehow acceptable to refuse to dispense contraceptives?

Now, what I think this guy (Koelzer) is doing is stupid. But in one sense, he's doing this the right way. He's started his own pharmacy. He is not asking businesses that he does not own to make a special exception for his religious beliefs. If people want to patronize a pharmacy that refuses to stock contraceptives, it deserves to stay open as much as a pizza parlor that won't stock non-Kosher toppings. It would be an unfair imposition to tell Koelzer that he has to shut down his pharmacy, because he has the right to run whatever kind of business he wants. It would be wrong.

Koelzer might be a good business owner. But is Koelzer a good pharmacist?

I don't think so, because he's violating the pharmacist's code of ethics. He's violating his oath. He swore to make patient care his first priority--and he isn't. Guaranteeing women control over their own reproduction is patient care. It's not some kind of luxury. Koelzer might say that if women want to control their reproduction that they should refuse sex. But that's not respecting his patient's autonomy, either. His patients in search of contraceptives have clearly decided that they would like to have sex. A lot of people who use contraceptives are married, so this isn't just about sinful, blasphemous fornicators.

So if you want contraceptives, you won't go to his pharmacy. He owns his own business. It's his right not to offer them, and it's your right to shop somewhere else.

But he's still a bad pharmacist.

1 comment:

PharmacistMike said...

Good point that he has the right to do whatever he wants with his own business but I would never allow him to care for any of my family members.