Manitoba pharmacists under attack for protection of conscience policy

The adoption of a protection of conscience policy not dissimilar to those existing in some pharmacy associations in the United States triggered an attack by the Winnipeg Sun in an editorial titled Pharmological farce. (See Project’s response) Coverage in the National Post and Winnipeg Free Press was more balanced. CBC Radio in Winnipeg hosted an open-line programme on 8 June concerning the issue.


Freedom of Conscience Recognized


5 June, 2000

Protection of Conscience Project

Pharmacists in Manitoba have decided that they should not be forced to be involved in medical procedures that they find morally abhorrent.

The Annual General Meeting of the Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association adopted a policy that pharmacists may refuse to dispense certain drugs for reasons of conscience. Such  policies exist in the United States, but it is believed that this is the first time a  pharmacists’ association in Canada has formally recognized the importance of freedom of conscience.

News of the development was conveyed to the Protection of Conscience Project in a letter from Ronald F. Guse, Registrar of the Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association.

The Association rejected a clause that would have forced conscientious objectors to involve themselves by making a referral to another pharmacist.

“Pharmacists in Manitoba who voted for this measure should be congratulated and thanked by their colleagues,” said Sean Murphy, Administrator of the Protection of Conscience Project. “The present concern among conscientious objectors is the so-called ‘morning-after-pill’. However, if non-objecting pharmacists do not support their colleagues on this issue, they should expect no support if they object to  dispensing drugs for assisted suicide, euthanasia, and execution by lethal injection.”

“If that seems somewhat far-fetched,” Murphy added, “the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia is already speculating about the expansion of pharmacy services to include such procedures.”

Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience supports Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association

News Release

Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience

The professional group Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience supports and applauds the Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association’s courageous inclusion of a model statement in their Standards of Practice, which does not require pharmacists with conscientious objections to refer patients. Patient access to legally prescribed therapy would continue to be available without compromising the health professionals’ right of conscientious refusal.

Ms. Maria Bizecki, spokesperson for Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience, says “Pharmacists  in Manitoba can now exercise their freedom of conscience rights without fear for their noble livelihood. Pharmacists are presently objecting to participate as agents of death, not attempting to block access or give moral pep talks at the pharmacy counter.”

Bizecki futher added that as the Canadian Medical Association does not require doctors to participate in or refer for abortions, all pharmacists must also be protected     nationally by their associations. “By pushing their morality on health care workers, the public violates a pharmacist’s autonomy, integrity and basic human rights in  a country that protects its minorities.”

For further information: Ms. Maria Bizecki, spokesperson Tel: (403) 228-2190  Fax:(403) 228-2249


Conscientious Objection in Ireland

Testimony before the Joint Committee on the Constitution (Chomhchoiste ar an mBunreacht)

Parliament of Ireland (Tithe an Oireachtais)

3 May, 2000

During hearings considering the abortion law in Ireland, the Joint Committee heard from Dr. Declan Keane, Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street. This is the biggest maternity hospital in Europe, with over 8,000 births annually. One of the questions put to Dr. Keane elicited comments about the extent of conscientious objection among Irish gynaecologists.

Dr. Keane’s testimony led to the making of a submission by the Protection of Conscience Project to the Irish parliamentary committee. [Administrator]dnesday, May 3rd, 2000.  [Testimony of Dr. Keane]


Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons challenged to think about conscience rights

News Release

Canadian Physicians for Life

Canadian Physicians for Life calls on the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta to verify the alleged charges of women being bullied by pro-life physicians.

The tone of the statement from College Councillor Dr. Eugene Kretzul is patronizing and dismissive of the conscience rights of doctors. The “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” suggestion that morally troublesome issues need only be referred to a colleague is oblivious to the principled objections of pro-life physicians.  Increasingly exotic reproductive technologies may eventually offend even the most laissez-faire physicians. There may come a day where no physician feels free from coercion to violate his or her conscience.

The “pro-choice” Alberta College apparently lacks tolerance for physicians’ choice to be pro-life. The Code of Ethics of the Canadian Medical Association requires physicians to “inform a patient when their personal morality would influence the recommendation or practice of any medical procedure that the patient needs or wants.” The Alberta College suggests pro-life doctors go further: usher abortion requesters into the abortion-on-demand system or face the charge of being unprofessional.

In Alberta, as elsewhere, it is often easier for women to obtain an abortion than support and counseling services. For a woman to make a truly “informed decision” she must be presented with the embryology of her   unborn child so that she will know that she is aborting a human being, not just a clump of cells or a piece of her own tissues. She deserves more than the wave-through suggested by the College’s statement.

A number of studies report a close correlation between abortion, especially of a first pregnancy, and breast cancer. Are Alberta physicians telling abortion seekers of this threat to their health? Are women being informed of the risk of post-abortion emotional trauma? Are patients being warned that some physicians’ ardent pro-abortion beliefs bias the “counselling” process?

And if abortion seekers have complained of being bullied, has the College conducted diligent enquiries into such serious accusations? What was the outcome? Or is polemical hearsay the College’s new standard of evidence when the target is pro-life doctors?

In plain English, independent medical professionals have no duty to refer anyone to anyone when the referral would violate the conscience and the medical good judgement of the professional. This elementary conscience  protection impartially shields doctors who possess any convictions on any topic at all. Whether the request be for genital mutilation, the amputation of a healthy limb, or an abortion, the true professional will never be coerced into offending his or her basic principles. Canadian Physicians for Life calls on the Alberta College to retract and clarify its venture into professional conscience ethics.

Will Johnston, M.D.

For further information
Canadian Physicians for Life Administration
Phone (604) 794-3772; Fax (604) 794-3960