Pharmacists who have a conscientious objection to providing oral contraceptives on moral or religious grounds should nevertheless always act professionally and ensure that consumers were informed as to where they could access these items, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has stressed.
National President of PSA, Grant Kardachi, was commenting on reports that a Victorian pharmacist has been asking his customers to shop elsewhere for birth control pills. The pharmacist reportedly includes a note in packets of oral contraceptive pills indicating he is opposed to the use of artificial contraception on religious grounds.
Mr Kardachi said that under the PSA Code of Ethics, a pharmacist has the right to decline provision of care based on a conscientious objection.
"However, the Code of Ethics stipulates that this right should not prevent the consumer from accessing healthcare that they are entitled to," Mr Kardachi said.
"Therefore in these circumstances the pharmacist should inform the consumer of the objection and appropriately facilitate continuity of care for the consumer."
Mr Kardachi said that pharmacists, like all health professionals in Australia, had to be registered with the Australia Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (APHRA).
"AHPRA's own code of conduct for registered health practitioners stipulates they can exercise their moral/religious views," Mr Kardachi said.
"However at PSA we support pharmacists who have such objections to find appropriate means of communicating to the public their positions and also on how the consumers can ensure continuity of care.
"One way is to inform consumers through in-pharmacy signage or leaflets that a medicine/service will not be provided. Another way is that they can actively advise local prescribers that a medicine will not be dispensed/supplied.
"They should also always identify another pharmacy or source for the medicine or health service."
PSA's Code of Ethics can be accessed at www.psa.org.au