Skepchick Quickies, 3.10


Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

Related Articles


  1. re: Uk Pharmacist.
    Wow! I don’t know how I would’ve reacted. I’ve taken birth control pills for pain and severe acne. Pills are not used only for contraception. And doctors would still love to see me on them for the high risk of pregnancy I face in one of my fallopian tube (it’s potentially deadly).

    By the sounds of it, she’s only a backup pharmacist.
    I’m sorry, but I hope she gets fired. Although… can you really fire someone for their beliefs? Xp

  2. Re: Pharmacist

    I’ve heard about this happening in the States, too. I don’t understand why Pharmacists think this is their “right” to refuse to fill a legal prescription based solely on religious or moral grounds – when it’s their job to dispense legally prescribed meds, not to dispense morality.
    If there’s an issue with the ‘script, they should call the doctor and inquire, that’s the extent of it.
    Next we’ll have straight-edge walmart cashiers refusing to check out customers purchasing alcohol. Then the riots will begin.

  3. @Izzy:

    Although… can you really fire someone for their beliefs? Xp

    You can (or should be able to) fire someone for not fulfilling their job duties. It doesn’t matter why she won’t do her job, only that she won’t. If she can’t meet the requirements for this job, then she should have chosen a different job. This isn’t about religious beliefs or freedom; it’s about job performance.

  4. I would have stood at the Pharmacy counter and in my loudest voice (not yelling) start letting everyone in the store what was happening. I did that at a bank that stole money from me once and you should see people flock from the place (I got my money).
    It never ceases to amaze me that the Catholic Church is so outraged by contraception but never have condemned child rape with the same vigor (if at all). Odd how that works. Every time a Catholic says something stupid like this, the reporter should ask them about that.
    The TED talk was heart warming and up lifting, go science!

  5. @frisbeetarian:

    You misunderstand the priorities of the Catholic Church. Keeping people in their proper place within the hierarchy is their ultimate goal. Abusing children is a means to achieve that goal. Allowing condom use might let women have a life outside of bearing and raising children, and that goes against their goal.

  6. @slightlymadscience:

    Yes, it does happen in the US. It happened out here in the Western Wisconsin area where I live several years ago.

    During our last gubernatorial election, I shocked my basically moderate, but always vote Republican neighbors by voting for our Democratic incumbent. Because he supports not allowing pharmacists to do that. One of the very visible platform positions of his opponent was that he was going to let them.

    Someone always couches this as a moral dilemma. Me? I find it absolutely evil that as a person in a position of control, you exert that control in a totally arbitrary manner. Are you going to not dispense chemo drugs because they’re teratogens next?

  7. @slightlymadscience:

    Next we’ll have straight-edge walmart cashiers refusing to check out customers purchasing alcohol. Then the riots will begin.

    Years ago, when I worked at Walgreens, I had a coworker who refused to sell cigarettes. They stuck him in the one hour photo lab, but he was completely incompetent, and I think they fired him after he destroyed one too many rolls of film.

    As for marmite jebus, why the hell does this shit keep getting reported? Everybody should be required to learn the definition of the word pareidolia before they’re allowed to become a reporter.

  8. @slightlymadscience: Print shops do this too. PZ Myers had an experience a year or two ago where the employees refused to print material for what I think was an Atheist meeting or club or something (I don’t have time to find his blog post on the subject).

  9. Refusing to dispense drugs as a chemist? That means you are refusing to do your job. You should be fired.

    Catholic clerics, stay out of politics. You have your own damn country, stick to screwing that up.

  10. Let’s say for instance there is a doctor that will prescribe whatever you want for a nominal fee. I knew a doctor that would give you high risk diet drugs without even examining you for a small price. Should the pharmacist be allowed to refuse to fill that prescription?

    I think it is well within this pharmacists rights to refuse to dispense that medicine. It is a waitresses job to serve me my drinks…but she can cut me off when she thinks I’ve had too many.

    I also think it is well within the patient’s rights to publicize, ridicule and drive away all business from that establishment until the bosses take notice and fire the religious nutbag.

  11. I agree with slightlymadscience. It’s all about job performance, not to mention attention getting behavior on the part of the clerk.

    If I were the manager, every time that happened, the person would get a written warning. Three and you’re out. It would be very interesting to see how many clerks would go all the way to three at the risk of their job…

  12. @Calinthalus:

    Let’s say for instance there is a doctor that will prescribe whatever you want for a nominal fee. I knew a doctor that would give you high risk diet drugs without even examining you for a small price. Should the pharmacist be allowed to refuse to fill that prescription?

    No, they shouldn’t. A pharmacist is not a doctor, and hasn’t performed an examination on the patient. How would they possibly know whether the drug was legitimately prescribed or not? A pharmacist’s job is to dole out the drugs the doctor prescribes, and inform the patient of any possible drug interactions as well as instructions on how to administer the medicine to themselves. If there is a question as to whether a doctor is giving out illegitimate prescriptions, there are authorities that deal with that, and the pharmacist isn’t one of them.

  13. @Calinthalus: I disagree. The pharmacist has a right to make decisions for herself based on her own religious beliefs. She has no inherent right to push her own religious beliefs on other people and determine what decisions are available to them. She should be held accountable not just for poor job performance, but for actively infringing on another individual’s legal rights.

  14. OK, so if a doctor prescribes, let’s say, EDTA for the patients fibromyalga…the pharmacist has no right to refuse to fill?

    The pharmacist in this case is wrong, clearly. But she wasn’t blocking the patient from going to another pharmacist or blocking them from getting treatment. She was taking what she saw as a moral stance on an issue. However, there was another shop right down the road, or the patient could have come back tomorrow when she wasn’t there.

    I think she should be fired, but that’s up to the owner of the shop, not me or the government.

  15. @Calinthalus: Ideally, the pharmacist would contact the doctor first in a case such as that, but really it’s besides the point here. The pharmacist in question wasn’t protecting the woman’s safety, she was refusing to do her job because she found it to be morally disagreeable. It isn’t the pharmacist’s job to dictate the patient’s morals.

  16. Everyone should have the right to refuse to do something they find morally disagreeable. She didn’t dictate morals to the patient. The patient was able to get her prescription filled by another pharmacist either in that store or another. That’s not forcing anything on the patient other than inconvenience on having to find someone willing to do their job.

    As a corollary, the employer has the right to fire you for not doing your job. However, it is not up to the government to determine what you find morally disagreeable or what you can be forced to do. This patient was inconvenienced, not killed or harmed in any way.

    If the pharmacist replaced her BC pills with tic-tacs, I’d agree it was a criminal act. Just refusing to do your job is between you and your employer, not the government.

  17. “I’m sorry, but it is against my beliefs to show you to the Christian books section. And, no I won’t check out your Jenny McCarthy book, or your Suzanne Sommers book, either. They violate my beliefs in evidence-based science.”

    I could get behind this, as a librarian.

  18. @Calinthalus: Interfering with a woman’s legal reproductive rights is not just an inconvenience, it is a legal issue. That is why government’s role comes into play here. It’s not about disagreeing morally. It’s about infringing on another individual’s rights. The patient has just as much right to choose her own beliefs and lifestyle as the pharmacist. She does not have the right to choose for anyone else. And vice versa.

  19. @Calinthalus: You do understand that, in some areas, there is only one pharmacy, and one pharmacist, so the ability to get a prescription filled elsewhere can be difficult, if not impossible, for someone who lacks time or transportation?

    Given that any potential pharmacist knows that birth control pills, the morning-after pill and Plan B are all drugs a doctor might well prescribe, the former being a surety, that pharmacist should never have gone into that profession if personal morality would interfere with her performing a pharmacist’s duties.

    Would you be of the same opinion if she were to refuse AIDS medications to someone because her “morality” subscribed to Leviticus 20:13: If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death…’?

  20. @Calinthalus: Everybody does indeed have the right to refuse to do something you find morally objectionable, which is why if you find something objectionable that you know you’ll have to do in your job every single day, you should try a different profession. If you become a pharmacist, you should know that giving out birth control is probably going to be one of the most common things you’ll be doing. If I, as a chef, were to go to an italian restaurant that served veal and obtained a job, and I thought veal was morally objectionable (which I don’t, because cute baby cows are delicious), and as such refused to prepare it, I would be fired. This pharmacist should recieve the same treatment.

  21. re: Water in Apollo moon rocks.

    Does anyone else have their “skeptic senses tingling” on this one? (I’ll admit, I stole this awesome expression from a work colleague. Mea culpa!)

    Especially after reading this:
    That team, however, hadn’t been able to prove the water hadn’t been introduced to the moon rocks on Earth, perhaps through sloppy handling.

  22. First, to women’s reproductive rights. Why are they sacrosanct over any other health rights? Why is filling a prescription for birth control pills more legally important than filling chelation prescriptions? Or any number of things a quack might hand out scripts for. Just because this particular pharmacist is wrong does not mean I don’t want other pharmacists unable to follow what might be a morally correct denial. If the pharmacist has to blindly fill whatever the doctor rights there’s no check or balance on the process…the doctor becomes god.

    My wife is a nurse. If she believes a doctors orders to be immoral and possibly harmful to her patient she is morally obligated to refuse to carry them out. She’ll probably get fired for it (or arrested if she lived in small town Texas). But she’s still morally obligated to refuse.

    I’m well aware of small towns. I live in a county with a little under 9,000 people. That being said, there are more than 12 pharmacies in my county.

    A couple of big chains and a handful of small shops.

    I would have no trouble with this pharmacist denying to fill AIDS prescriptions. Why? Because for sure they’d get fired for it after the press got ahold of the story.

    I agree, she should find another line of work. I agree that she should be fired for not doing her job. I don’t agree that the government needs to be involved. I’m not defending her actions at all…I’m defending the idea behind them. The fact that a pharmacists job (like a nurses) is to be a patients advocate. If she honestly thinks those pills are to the detriment of the patient it is her moral obligation to refuse to fill the prescription. She should then be fired for having shitty judgment capabilities.

  23. @Sunioc: *chuckle* My ex told the story of her family’s abortive attempt at opening an Italian restaurant. Amongst the many disasters that resulted in its failure was the chef they hired… who refused to do red sauces. He was a whiz with white sauce, but simply refused to do any sort of red sauce.

  24. @Calinthalus: I used to live in a town of 200 – with no pharmacist for 10 miles. If a woman had made it to the “local” pharmacy and discovered tht the pharmacist objected to birth control, she’s have to travel 23 miles in the opposite direction to find another pharmacy – and not everyone in town had a car. Bicycles were popular, but a 30-odd mile bike ride would be a bit much.

    I think you’re confusing “immoral” with “unsafe” or “unethical”. There’s a difference between a nurse calling a doctor’s – or supervisor’s – attention to what looks like a contra-indicated medical procedure or drug dosage, and refusing to carry out a legitimate doctor’s order because she, say, believes that the patient “deserves” pain for his or her “sin”. The former has nothing to do with idiosyncratic versions of how some Guy-in-the-Sky Insists Things Be Done; the latter has nothing to do with medicine.

    There’s a vast difference between being a “patient advocate” and trying to force a patient to adhere to one’s chosen “morality”.

  25. @DominEditrix: This is exactly right.

    If the pharmacist has an issue with the doctor’s orders, they should contact the doctor, not just refuse to fill the prescription and leave it at that. Taking birth control pills puts the women in no immediate physical danger, so there is no *medical* reason to refuse the prescription.

    Besides, while I certainly don’t agree that doctors are “gods,” to claim that pharmacists are part of a checks and balances is ridiculous. You almost sound like a conspiracy nut.

  26. Don’t God and Jesus and Mary have anything better to do than reveal themselves in snot rags and sauces? I’m still waiting for a story of a guy blowing his load and saying he saw Jesus in it.

  27. The pharmacist is part of the checks and balances. That’s why they can go to jail for failing to catch errors in dosing. They have to check and verify the doctors work.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button
%d bloggers like this: