By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

CHICAGO, June 13, 2008 ( – The American Medical Association (AMA) is asking its membership to adopt a policy that would see the organization officially support the removal of the freedom of conscience of pharmacists.

The recommendation that will be considered at this week’s (June 11-14, 2008) AMA Board of Trustees annual meeting states, “A pharmacist’s deliberate refusal to dispense a drug on religious, moral, or ethical grounds, i.e., pharmacist conscientious objection, has been most often associated with Plan B, the emergency contraceptive, and has received considerable attention in both the lay media and in medical journal commentaries. Of all of the reasons why a pharmacist might not dispense a legally valid prescription, conscientious objection is the only one that places a pharmacist’s personal views in potential conflict with the best interests of the patient.”

The recommendation then goes on to state that the AMA, “supports responsibility to the patient as paramount in all situations. Thus, our AMA supports legislation that would require individual pharmacists and pharmacy chains to fill legally valid prescriptions or to provide immediate referral to an appropriate alternative dispensing pharmacy without interference.”

The Pharmacist Conscience Coalition of Pharmacists For Life International responded to the news, accusing the AMA of attempting to deny fundamental freedoms of conscience and of being guilty of hypocrisy.
“This is just the latest in a well-orchestrated series of attacks on the freedom of conscience of medical professionals,” said a press release from Pharmacists for Life. “Such attacks have become commonplace over the past few years…and are most frequently encouraged by abortion advocates and their allies. However, this may be the most hypocritical. While purportedly supporting freedom of conscience protections for physicians, the AMA is arguing that similar protections should be denied pharmacists.”

The AMA, which is an organization for physician’s only, refers its members to the World Medical Association’s 1970 Declaration on Therapeutic Abortion, which provides in article 6 that: “If the physician considers that his convictions do not allow him to advise or perform an abortion, he may withdraw while ensuring the continuity of medical care by a qualified colleague []. The organization, however, sanctimoniously dismisses the interests of pharmacists when they are confronted with a request for a prescription that offends their moral or religious beliefs.

The “Pharmacist Conscience Clause” of the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Principles of Practice for Pharmaceutical Care states: “APhA recognizes the individual pharmacist’s right to exercise conscientious refusal and supports the establishment of systems to ensure patient’s access to legally prescribed therapy without compromising the pharmacist’s right of conscientious refusal.”

To express your concern to the AMA please contact:

Edward L. Langston, MD, AMA Board of Trustees Chairman
  American Medical Association
  515 N. State Street
  Chicago, IL 60610
  (800) 621-8335