Pharmacist Refuses to Issue Contraception Pills Due to Conscientious Objection

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A pharmacy in the Jordanovac neighbourhood in Zagreb has recently refused to issue a women contraceptive pills, invoking the right to conscientious objection, reports on November 16, 2018.

“The pharmacist has refused to issue a gynaecologically prescribed contraceptive pill that I use because of a menstrual bleeding issue, as well as a method of contraception. She invoked the conscientious objection principle because she does ‘not support the use of contraceptive pills as a contraceptive method.’ She was the only one working at the pharmacy and there was no one else who could issue me the pills. The employee said I should come in the morning when she is not there. How can she decide this? First, it was the gynaecologists, now the pharmacists, where it will all end?” asked the woman.

Sandra Čelina, the owner of the pharmacy, confirmed that the controversial incident had occurred. “Of course I know about this, I am the head of the pharmacy. It happened because the other employee was sick, but I do not have to answer anything to you,” said Čelina, adding that she had sent her statement to the Croatian Chamber of Pharmacists.

The Chamber said they had received two complaints this month. These two are the only complaints this year. “In the period from January 1 to November 12, one complaint was received concerning an invocation of the conscientious objection by a pharmacist. We are currently in the process of resolving the case before the competent Ethics and Deontology Commission. In addition, we have received a query which does not make it clear whether the drug was not issued due to the conscientious objection or for some other reason in line with the rules (expert opinion that the medicine could endanger the patient’s health, improper medical records, threat or violent behaviour of a patient),” said the Croatian Chamber of Pharmacists.

The conscientious objection by pharmacy employees is defined by the Code of Pharmacy Ethics and Deontology. According to the third paragraph of Article 12, “pharmacists have the right to the conscientious objection only if it does not endanger the health and life of the patient.”

Višnja Ljubičić, the Gender Equality Ombudsperson, noted that the right to conscientious objection was individual. In cases where a worker or a pharmacist in a pharmacy invoke conscientious objection, pharmacies are “obliged to organize their operations in such a way that the use of the right to conscientious objection does not interfere with the work of the health institution or the pharmacy as a whole, which would prevent the provision of specific services.”

Since in the last week’s case the pharmacy in question did not reorganise its work, the gender equality ombudsperson says that the code of pharmacy ethics and deontology has been violated.

“In this particular case, if a pharmacy as an institution as a whole is unable to issue a medicine due to the conscientious objection of its employees, I consider this to be a threat to the user’s health,” concluded Ljubičić.

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Translated from (reported by Ana Brakus).


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