Press Release: Right To Life Expresses Disappointment At Adoption of Conscience-Chilling New GPhC Standards

Right To Life (RTL) is expressing disappointment at today’s decision by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) to adopt new professional standards that will undermine the freedom of conscience of pharmacists.

As RTL pointed out during the consultation period, this change will mean that pharmacists who ethically object to providing drugs that are abortifacient (cause a miscarriage) or are contragestive (prevent a conceived unborn child from implanting in her mother’s womb) will not be able to conscientiously object to being formally involved with that practice.

This choice by the GPhC ignores the public opposition to the proposed changes, which further narrow conscience protections for medical professionals just as the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2014 Doogan case did. Like that ruling, these new standards further emphasise the need for far better conscience protections to be established in law, so that fair and reasonable accommodation of those who practice medicine and reject the destruction of innocent human beings, can be established.

RTL Executive Officer Peter D. Williams said:

This is a small but significant backwards step for the conscience rights of medical professionals.

As Right To Life explained to the GPhC in our submission to their consultation, they had the choice to adopt similar standards to those of the General Medical Council (GMC), or indeed maintain the principles of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) statement on assisted suicide in 2013. Either would have allowed for no obligation to be made on any pharmacist to participate in any aspect of a procedure if he or she feels this is against their personal beliefs, whether by allowing them an ‘opt out’, whilst also requiring that they sensibly inform their employer and colleagues so as not to unduly disrupt the working environment or service of patients.

Instead, the GPhC have adopted a set of standards that betray those they are meant to serve and represent by showing no concern for the need to reasonably accommodate pharmacists with principled objections to contragestive or abortifacient drugs. This is an unnecessary and authoritarian move that I hope will be corrected, either by a reversal on the GPhC’s part, or more enlightened and liberal legislation securing the conscience rights of all those whose desire is to heal and not to harm”.

END

Action Alert: Respond To Anti-Conscience General Pharmaceutical Council

On March 07th, a consultation by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) will close that proposes to change the language in their ‘Standards’ (regulations) that will mean that pharmacists who ethically object to providing drugs that are abortifacient (cause a miscarriage) or contragestive (prevent a conceived unborn child from implanting in her mother’s womb) will not be able to conscientiously object to being formally involved with that practice.

As this proposal would be “a significant change” from current practice, the GPhC states that “it is vital that we hear from the public and the profession about this”. We agree. It is literally vital that as many right-to-lifers write to the GPhC in the time that is left to oppose the introduction of this new language.

Arguments against this can be made on the basis of:

  • The right of freedom of conscience as part of equality legislation protections in UK legislation.
  • The right of freedom of conscience as part of international standards.
  • The importance of medical professionals being able to practise according to conscientious principles, for patients and society at large.
  • The practically unhelpful nature of this proposed language for the pharmacy profession and the GPhC itself.

These arguments can be found in Right To Life’s own submission to the GPhC, and in our comment article by RTL Executive Officer Peter D. Williams based on the submission contents.

Supporters are welcome to take the arguments from the submission or article, re-write in their own words, and send using the consultation response form (see pg. 23 onwards) by e-mail to consultations@pharmacyregulation.org with the subject ‘Religion, personal values and beliefs consultation’.

You can also send your response by post to:
Religion, Personal Values and Beliefs Consultation Response
Policy & Standards Team
General Pharmaceutical Council
25 Canada Square
London E14 5LQ

Please act as soon as you can before March 07th to stand for the freedom of conscience of pharmacists who recognise, and in their professional lives practise respect for, the right to life of the most vulnerable human beings.