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Conscientious objection comes with responsibilities

February 23, 2022
Pharmacy professionals must respect each patient’s right to health care.

There may be times when pharmacists or pharmacy technicians find themselves in a moral dilemma about whether to provide a specific pharmacy service to a patient. For example, some registrants may object to providing services related to Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) or dispensing Mifegymiso, based on their personal beliefs.

Principle 5 of ACP’s Code of Ethics (Respect each patient’s right to health care) provides direction to registrants about what to do if they have a moral dilemma and wish to exercise conscientious objection, specifically the following:

  • 5.3 Assist each patient to obtain appropriate pharmacy services from another pharmacist or health professional within a timeframe fitting the patient’s needs if I am unable to provide the pharmacy service or will not provide the service due to a conscientious objection.
  • 5.4 Arrange the condition of my practice so that the care of my patients will not be jeopardized when I will not provide certain pharmacy services due to a conscientious objection.

Exercising conscientious objection proactively and respectfully  

Conscientious objections by pharmacists or pharmacy technicians must not impede the right of individuals to receive unbiased care, including where to access legally permissible and available health services. Conscientious objection should be addressed proactively and respectfully to not disrupt access to care, nor to disrupt pharmacy team behaviours and relationships.

If a pharmacist or pharmacy technician wishes to exercise conscientious objection, they should

  • provide a statement in writing to their supervisor in advance of the possibility of receiving a prescription for a drug or request for a service that they have moral objection to; and
  • familiarize themselves with pharmacists or pharmacy technicians, as the case may be, to whom they may guide an individual or another health professional seeking the specific service that they object to.

In this way, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians can best prepare themselves and their team should they receive a prescription or be requested to provide a service that they morally object to. Taking a proactive approach will help pharmacy teams ensure that patients have access to the services they need in a professional, timely, and respectful manner.