Sunday, February 26, 2006

There is a difference between a doctor and a pharmacist, you know.

In Slate, Dahlia Lithwick takes on the distinction between doctors who refuse to participate in executions and pharmacists who refuse to prescribe emergency contraception.
Physicians and pharmacists who refuse to participate in what they deem killing have more in common than many of us might like to admit. But the most important distinction between them has to do with their differing relationship with patients. The law recognizes that doctors' special relationships with their patients warrant a legal privilege: Their discussions are kept secret. You may like and trust your pharmacist. You may even trust him with intimate details about your yeast infection. But your pharmacist has neither the tools nor the right to probe details about rape and abuse, incest and health risks. Which is why pharmacists who interpose themselves between decisions made by a doctor and her patient are overstepping moral and ethical boundaries—and undermining another professional relationship that is fundamentally different from their own. You needn't believe that one relationship is more important than the other to recognize that neither relationship should be allowed to intrude upon the other.
Ex-actly. The pharmacist is not privy to all the information that the doctor is, and that's why the pharmacist isn't the one prescribing drugs. It's unethical for a pharmacist to make an assumption about someone else's health and stand betweeen a patient and their medication. If they wanted to be the ones choosing what medication a patient should seek in a certain situation, they should go to med school, so they can start prescribing prenatal vitamins instead of emergency contraception (and probably losing a lot of business in the meantime).
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