RealTime: Pharmacists in Wisconsin Get No Free Pass


Despite the desperate attempts by a "pro-life" group in Wisconsin to falsely redefine all contraception as methods of abortion, a Wisconsin court's ruling today rose above the din.

The court today upheld the decision to discipline a pharmacist who refused to refill a prescription for birth control pills in 2002, based on the pharmacist's personal religious beliefs.

The ACLU said that "today's decision…strikes an important balance between religious liberty and women's health."

"We are pleased that the court recognized that individual pharmacists with religious objections cannot prevent women from obtaining contraception," said Sondra Goldschein, an attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "Pharmacies should honor individual pharmacists' religious beliefs wherever possible; however, the patient's right to obtain legally prescribed medication should always come first."

The pharmacist, Neil Noesen, did not only refuse to fill a customer's prescription for birth control pills but he also, according to a press release put out by the ACLU, interfered with the woman's efforts to fill her prescription at another pharmacy.

Laurence Dupuis, Legal Director of ACLU of Wisconsin put it simply, "There are ways to honor religious beliefs and a patient's rights; contrary to professional standards, Noesen made no effort in this case to ensure the patient's health care needs were met."

In other words, if Noesen had a problem filling prescriptions for birth control pills he not only should have made that clear to his employer off the bat but he also should have quickly transferred the prescription to a pharmacy where the woman could get it filled smoothly and with minor interruption (because, let's be clear, not filling the prescription in the first place is still an interruption).

Read more about the ACLU's position on religious refusals and reproductive rights at the pharmacy.

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  • invalid-0

    It’s about time that professionals are held accountable. This sounds like an ethics issue that should be discussed in pharmacy school–if you are unwilling to fill a patient’s valid prescription based on your religious beliefs, you either find someone who will, provide accurate unbiased information as to where they can get it filled (although you’re inconveniencing them if you make them go elsewhere), or don’t go into this line of work. It’s a bout the patient, not the provider.

  • invalid-0

    These turkeys are comparable to a hardcore PETA member going to work at a Burger King and refusing to serve hamburgers because they “don’t believe in eating meat.”

  • invalid-0

    If you claim your religion prohibits you from carrying out your duties, you should find another line of work. You’re not going to find a Hindu slinging burgers at McDonald’s, or a Jehovah’s Witness working as a phlebotomist, most likely. How many practicing Quakers are in the armed forces or working as cops?

    There was a court case several years ago where a BART train operator sued to be exempted from the seniority requirements because he was Orthodox Jewish and said he couldn’t work on Saturdays (days off are granted by seniority). The court ruled against him saying that he should have taken that into account before he took the job.

    With pharmacist, it could literally be a matter of life or death. What if, instead of birth control, this guy refused to fill a patient’s prescription for AIDS medication? Or what if he was a Scientologist and someone came in with a prescription for anti-depressants? This is a slippery slope we have to avoid going down at all costs.

  • http://www.myspace.com/7558749 invalid-0

    What some pharmacists forget is that they work for the employer, first and foremost.

    If you don’t want to serve ham sandwiches, you do not take jobs requiring you to serve ham sandwiches.

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