Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude

Address to College Council and Pharmacists AGM, College of Pharmacists of B.C.

Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
29 November, 2003
Reproduced with permission
Cristina Alarcon*
The following address was made in support of a motion requesting that the College of Pharmacists of BC respect freedom of conscience among pharmacists. The motion was defeated 33-9. The College has been hostile to the concept of freedom of conscience for some time. (See Project Report 2001-01).

Good afternoon everyone, members of council, Linda Lytle,

Most of you are here today because you want to have a say in the making of College policy- I wish my resolution had some math in it so that those of you who are here for the calculator might support my cause, which I hope will become yours as well.

There is more at stake here than merely our license- though for most of us that is already a big thing. What is at stake is our very dignity as intelligent human beings. Since the inauguration of the new Code of Ethics in 1997, it has been insinuated that pharmacists are incapable of treating a client with due sensitivity and respect, while at the same time having the courage, integrity, and uprightness to act according to one's own convictions.

Can a pharmacist be truly considered to be a professional when his licensing body does not encourage him to act freely ?

At last year's AGM one of our colleagues went so far as to make the ridiculous assertion that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies only to patients, but not to pharmacists. Is this the kind of future you want for your profession?

You and I make moral and ethical choices every day. We ask ourselves (both in and out of the dispensary) is this what I ought to be doing?

The College cannot presume to dictate what those choices should be to the minutest details, especially if our own conscience were to come into conflict with a perceived patient-need. By a perceived need, I mean something a patient wants, but will not be endangered without.

I'm sure you've all come up against the client who wants the latest herbal remedy which you do not believe in and therefore do not stock. Would you go out of your way to help the client to find this product even if doing so would conflict with your conscience?

I will give you a more controversial example: Supposing you live in a country where it is legal for a parent to euthanize a child. Would you go ahead and dispense the concoction even if such a practice is disturbing for you?

Value IX of our current Code of Ethics undermines a pharmacist's ability to act in a morally coherent way.

It infringes on our civil liberties.

It tarnishes the College's claims to " value fulfilling its responsibility to its members and treating them with respect and dignity."