Plans which could force Christian pharmacists to go against their conscience are ‘unethical and unnecessary’, a medical ethics expert has warned.
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is currently consulting on new guidance which would require pharmacists to park their religious convictions while at work.
Dr Peter Saunders, CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, said the plans are “unethical, unnecessary and quite possibly illegal”.
Unethical, unnecessary and quite possibly illegal.
Dr Peter Saunders, CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship
The GPhC guidance states that pharmacists must “take responsibility for ensuring that person-centred care is not compromised because of personal values and beliefs”, while weakening the right of referral to another pharmacist.
Writing on his blog, Dr Saunders cautioned that “pharmacists would be pressured to comply or risk disciplinary procedures and/or possible loss of employment”.
He added that “potential trainees could be dissuaded from pursuing a career in pharmacy altogether”.
Under the GPhC’s revised guidance, pharmacy professionals are told to make sure they do not “impose” their values and beliefs on other people.
Values and beliefs
It also says that in some cases, a pharmacist’s beliefs could render them “unable to take up certain working roles”.
In practice, the guidance could mean Christian pharmacists are forced to provide access to abortifacient drugs, such as the morning after pill, and hormone blocking drugs, which are used by transsexual patients.
But Dr Saunders described the draft proposal as “draconian” and predicted it would be “challenged in court by an aggrieved individual or organisation” if it were to be implemented.
“For the sake of professional freedom and reasonable accommodation, essential in a pluralist multi-faith democracy, let’s hope that they choose instead a more flexible, tolerant, respectful and eminently sensible path”, he concluded.
Last week, a prominent pro-life campaigner said the plans discriminate against Christians.
Chris Whitehouse, a trustee of Right to Life and a Conservative councillor, said that removing the clause means the GPhC will be ignoring the Equality Act 2010.
The GPhC has admitted in the public consultation document that the proposal to remove these allowances will be “a significant change from the present position”.
‘Matter of time’
Writing for Conservative Home, Whitehouse said that Christians would struggle to secure employment, and that “it is only a matter of time before such careers are closed down as options for those who hold such views”.
The GPhC consultation is open to the public and will run until 7 March.