Posts Tagged ‘Abortion’

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Pharmacists Allowed to Deny Drugs to Patients Based Solely on Personal Beliefs

02.01.11

In Idaho, the pharmacy can simply choose to not fill your medicine even if you have a valid prescription from your doctor.

It’s called the conscience clause, meaning that if you go to a Walgreen’s with an Rx for Methergine – a medicine used to prevent or stop the bleeding in the uterus after childbirth or an abortion – that pharmacist is not required by law to fill the prescription.

This is exactly what happened to a Planned Parenthood nurse in Nampa, Idaho, who took it to the Board of Idaho Pharmacy and found that the pharmacy did nothing wrong:

But according to the Board of Pharmacy’s response, the Idaho Pharmacy Act does not require a pharmacist to fill a prescription. Even if the conscience law was used incorrectly, the pharmacist did not violate the Idaho Pharmacy Act by refusing to fill the prescription, the board found.

My emphasis. I’m sure there is a good reason to have that clause in the books. For example, if a patient has multiple doctors for many different ailments and they all prescribe drugs that, combined, could cause significant harm to the patient, the pharmacy should have the power to not fill prescription. But, in that sense, it’s for the sake of aiding the patient, preventing harm to them, not fulfilling some judgmental opinion on behalf of the pharmacist.

Quite the contrary. If the woman for whom the Methergine was prescribed needed the drug desperately to prevent massive bleeding, this ability to deny prescriptions to people would be doing the exact opposite: putting someone’s life into danger. Also, since the medicine is also used for situations of childbirth, it’s not certain that it was being used on a woman who had even had an abortion. How would that affect someone’s conscience knowing that they denied needed medicine to a woman who just gave birth?

It turns out that this particular pharmacist asked the nurse if the drug was being used for post-abortion care, to which the nurse denied a response since it would violate the patient’s privacy rights.

According to the Board of Pharmacy’s response, Planned Parenthood alleged the pharmacist’s inquiry violated privacy provisions of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which the board is not entitled to enforce. Under the Idaho Pharmacy Act, releasing such information would be a violation, but requesting it is not, the response states.

The danger in this type of questioning is that even though the nurse is bound by law to not respond, her denial could be interpreted by the pharmacist as a “no comment” type answer, essentially known as a “yes, but I don’t have to tell you so I’m not going to” response. Leading someone perhaps into feeling guilty about being a part of something they don’t want to be even if it’s not the case. Even now in this article, it’s never revealed why the woman needed the drug.

In response to Planned Parenthood’s assertion that denying the prescription could have placed the patient in grave danger, the board said no such danger was realized because the medicine was obtained elsewhere.

Well, that sure is easy to say now in hindsight since the woman apparently did get the drug. But, what happens when all of the pharmacies in the area cite the Conscience Clause, denying the medicine being filled, and the woman hemorrhages and dies? Would the board have found that last point differently?

Also, how is that even allowed to be a defense when there’s no way that pharmacist can know for certain that the patient would be able to obtain the medicine elsewhere in a timely manner enough to avoid any further complications? The only way to know if the patient would’ve been placed in grave danger would be after the pharmacist had already denied the prescription.

I find the whole conscience clause in general rather revolting. The notion that someone whose chosen profession it is to fill prescriptions can decide for themselves whether or not to then fill those legitimately ordered scripts based on their own personal beliefs infuriates me.  And why is this only limited to feelings about abortions and end-of-life care?

Why not about criminals? Or drug addicts?

Both are living lifestyles that some – or many, even – find wrong, immoral, unacceptable. What if a prescription came in for Methadone and the pharmacist refused to fill it because they didn’t think that it was right to give drugs to a drug addict even if it was to help them get off drugs? Or how about this: a gunman gets shot while in a gang fight and, while it’s not life-threatening at the moment, needs a blood-clotting agent to help his situation, but the pharmacist doesn’t agree with gang violence and doesn’t want to be part of helping a known criminal so denies the prescription. Why is that not allowed? Why would that be ridiculous? How is it so different?

Filling a prescription no more endorses the behavior associated with the treatment for whatever ailment necessitates that medicine than working at the local Walgreens endorses the behavior associated with whatever movie people decide to rent from the Redbox out front. When I go to rent a movie, I might want a recommendation from the guy behind the counter, but I surely don’t want to be judged for what I choose to watch by some stranger who thinks they’re so high and mighty when it’s perfectly legal for me to rent that R-rated flick no matter how trashy it looks.

Unless I’m breaking the law: just do your job, know that you had no part in my life choices, and let me do what I have my right to do.

Photo courtesy of Curtis Gregory Perry’s Flickr Photostream.

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Killing to Save a Life: Phoenix Hospital Stripped of Catholic Affiliation Due to Emergency Abortion

12.22.10

A Phoenix hospital had its Catholic affiliation renounced by a Bishop after doctors performed an abortion to save the life of the mother.  A nun who was involved in the decision was also excommunicated for her role in the procedure.

While I understand why people may be against abortion in most instances, I don’t get the stance that abortion is always wrong in every single case, including incest, rape, and when the life of the mother is at stake.

I think most of us can agree that killing another human being, while wrong almost always, even has instances where it’s morally acceptable or even morally warranted — in wartime, in self-defense, or to protect another from being killed.  Police officers and other law enforcement are morally allowed to shoot to kill in given circumstances, usually making split-second decisions.

So, why can’t doctors make calculated decisions in the same way when lives are at stake and can be saved?

The specific incident that caused St. Joseph’s Hospital to lose its Catholic affiliation involved a woman in her 20s, carrying her fifth child, who developed severe pulmonary hypertension to the point where her life was at stake.  A Catholic directive states that performing an abortion – a “direct” death – to save the life of the mother because of another issue – which would result in an “indirect” death – is not allowed.

Bishop Thomas Olmstead explains:

“No one has the right to directly kill an innocent life, no matter what stage of their existence. It is not better to save one life while murdering another. It is not better that the mother live the rest of her existence having had her child killed.”

I suppose the clarifying adjective here that makes this situation different than any other is the whole “innocent life” phrase.  I don’t know how that helps any, though, since who are we to pass judgment on the relative sinfulness of another human being who is old enough to most likely have sinned?  Why is that life expendable in order to save another life, but a baby’s is not simply because it hasn’t grown old enough to inevitably sin?

That line of thinking also involves telling a 20-something-year-old woman that she will be better off dead than dealing with the emotional trauma of having lost her baby.  How exactly is that valuing life at all? Life involves death – and all of us have to deal with it at some point in our years of existence.  To say that someone is better off dying than having what some consider to be a sin on their hands doesn’t ring true in other situations.

So why with this?

Considering that an ordained nun went along with this procedure shows just how morally ambiguous this scenario is, one that tests the concepts of morality.  As a practicing physician, how could you sit back and watch a patient die when you know that you could do something to save her life — even if that meant the death of her fetus?

But the big question is: how is it better to let two lives die – in the process, rendering those surviving four, young children motherless – than to save a life?

I don’t tend to expect much about religion to make much logical sense.  But this still baffles me.

Image courtesy of Cobalt123’s Flickr Photostream.

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Oklahoma Passes Strict Abortion Legislation Despite Vetoes

04.28.10

While Arizona passed the strictest immigration law in the nation, Oklahoma did their own clamping down, as well, enacting some of the country’s toughest abortion laws:

Though other states have passed similar measures requiring women to have ultrasounds, Oklahoma’s law goes further, mandating that a doctor or technician set up the monitor so the woman can see it and describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus. No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims.

A second measure passed into law on Tuesday prevents women who have had a disabled baby from suing a doctor for withholding information about birth defects while the child was in the womb.

My emphasis.

Let me repeat: No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims.

I can’t fathom the horror of being raped nor do I wish that upon anyone.  To find out that you’re now pregnant because of that abominable invasion must be something beyond comprehension.  On top of that, Oklahoma now requires doctors to then lecture and impose more guilt and shame upon that woman about her next decision, should that be an abortion.

This is unconscionable.

I heard recently on the radio that in some Islamic societies, when a woman is raped, she’s actually committed a crime.  How nonsensical and judiciously bankrupt is that?  The victim is at fault for her own assault?  I shook my head at how backwards that line of thinking is, and yet, this law in Oklahoma makes me wonder just how far removed we are from that mentality.

As far as the second law goes: it essentially prevents doctors from being sued for breaking their Hippocratic Oath, rendering it useless.  If there is no threat of ramifications from not objectively giving a patient all of the information about her health and body, we have a completely broken health care system.  Talk about playing God.

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I’m 17 and I Can (Finally) Get Plan B

03.23.09

Another Bush fallacy gets righted.

I didn’t realize how long the fight had been going on with getting Plan B – also known as the morning-after pill – approved for being an over-the-counter medicine.  I guess trying to get something logical pushed through the bureaucracy of Bush’s Administration would take both him leaving office and nearly a decade’s worth of fighting.

Still, the FDA’s Advisory Committee voted 23 to 4 in 2003 to approve Plan B for over-the-counter status without age restrictions. Yet the Plan B request of the only one of nearly two dozen applications to move a prescription drug to over-the-counter status that was not approved after the committee recommended it.

The judge said top FDA officials at a meeting in late 2003 or early 2004 told their subordinates that over-the-counter status for Plan B would not be approved at that time and that it was a decision that would be made at a higher level in the FDA than those decisions are usually made.

Isn’t that committee set up with experts who could reasonably decide the fate of any strength of medicine?  Why would this particular medicine need a level of approval higher than normal?

Oh wait.  This is why.

“Moreover, they were told that the White House had been involved in the decision on Plan B,” he said.

Like so many other things, Bush overrided the FDA committee in order to push through his own far-right, socially-religious, political agenda.  Who needs branches of government and checks and balances when you already know what’s best for the country?

Thankfully, someone realized the absurdity of all of this.

As of today, thanks to a federal judge, 17 year old girls can now purchase the Plan B pill over the counter without a prescription.  Naturally, the opposition cries out that this is just another form of abortion.  Chris Gasek, a regulation expert with the conservative Family Research Council, went even further to suggest that “[t]here is a real danger that Plan B may be given to women, especially sexually abused women and minors, under coercion or without their consent.”

Wouldn’t the real danger then be the sociopaths who coerce and sexually abuse the young women, not a pill designed to help limit the number of abortions?  Maybe the Family Research Council should focus on preventing such heinous acts instead of wasting their time with this pompous and futile refutal aimed at simply riling up the religious right with rhetoric instead of actually helping anyone or accomplishing anything.