New Guidelines from the General Pharmaceutical Council Threaten Freedom of Conscience

Country: United Kingdom

Date of incident: August 15, 2011

New guidelines issued by the UK pharmaceutical regulatory board tends towards stripping pharmacists of their right to conscientious objection with regard to refusing the sale of the morning-after pill, an abortive device.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) says the rules are not mandatory and only offer "assistance... suggestions and advice which registrants may find helpful in their practise". However, the guidelines establish that the professional who does not wish to sell a particular drug, based on his or her beliefs or morals, is required to refer customers to a another pharmacist who will distribute the drugs, after previous confirmation that the drug is on stock.
The “Guidance on the Provision of Pharmacy Services Affected by Religious and Moral Beliefs” issued by the GPhC aims to explains how pharmacists should exercise their right to conscientious objection, a right that  is granted widely by international treaties. The guidelines apply to any drug, so it includes medicines related to in-vitro fertilization (IVF) objected by some pharmacists. In addition, the guidelines require a pharmacist to inform of any conscientious objection issue when applying for a job, a declaration that can jeopardize future working opportunities for Christian professionals. This might force the individual applicant to decide between compromising his or her beliefs or risking professional limitations. Such developments would preempt the meaning of human rights. The new guidelines suggest and advise to cooperate in the distribution of drugs which one does not approve of ethically by referal. The more binding these guidelines become - be it only on a social level - the more the job as a pharmacists will close for Christians.