Monday, October 16, 2017

What about doctors, pharmacists and condom promoters?

(Excerpt from “Who’s at Centre of your marriage…The Pill or Jesus Christ?  Contraception’s disintegrating effect on marital harmony”  Patrick McCrystal 2009, published by Human Life International (Ireland)

Doctors, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals allow their esteemed professions to act as vehicles for contraceptive provision.  In light of the evidence and information in this book, what’s the position - morally, ethically and socially - of Catholic or Christian doctors and pharmacists who prescribe or dispense contraceptive products? 

In an address to Catholic Italian pharmacists in 1994, Pope John Paul II stated:

“One cannot accept being party to attacks on life…or on procreation”.[1] 

Speaking to pharmacists on 29th October 2007, Pope Benedict XVI stated that:

“we cannot anaesthetize consciences as regards, for example the effects of certain molecules that have the goal of preventing the implantation of the embryo or shortening a person’s life”.[2] 

As examined in Chapter Six and Appendix Two, all contraceptive pills and drugs have an implicit abortifacient mechanism that is sometimes operative.

In handling these drugs, some healthcare professionals justify their position by invoking a professional code of ethics that permits or indeed compels them to participate in contraception promotion.  However, we are reminded that:

“Each individual in fact has moral responsibility for the acts he personally performs; no-one can be exempted from this responsibility and on the basis of it everyone will be judged by God himself”.[3]

“Whoever attacks human life in some way attacks God himself” Pope John Paul II Evangelium Vitae n9

There is an ethical code higher than a profession’s official code of ethics that commands a greater loyalty should there be a conflict between the two.

It is sometimes argued that a healthcare professional cannot impose his private views on others should he have personal moral difficulty with distributing contraceptives or abortifacients.   It is also argued that to be ‘professional’ means that pharmacist must supply all drug products required. 

However, pharmacists and doctors have the right, indeed the duty, to ensure that they act in the best interests of all of their patients.  If a woman has conceived, the doctor or pharmacist has a duty of care for two patients, not one.    To care for both is what is truly professional.

Pharmacists and doctors are not responsible for their patient’s actions, but they are responsible for their own.  Healthcare professionals need not to allow other people’s views to be imposed on them should they be requested to comply with an immoral request.  To directly cooperate in the promotion of products whose use is intrinsically evil (apart from a small number of therapeutic reasons) bears its own moral responsibility and consequences. 

The same applies for those who facilitate sterilisation, condom machine manufacturers, family planning personnel and all involved in the advocation of contraceptive products.  Pharmacists worldwide are vigorously contesting the right to conscientious objection in practice.[4] 

Clinical and professional training on contraceptive use does not provide any instruction in the disciplines of theology, philosophy or the sacredness of new life resulting from sexual intercourse.

It is argued that pharmacists should stick to the scientific facts of how contraceptive drugs work and not stray into the moral arena.  After all, it is argued, that’s how pharmacists were trained and thus they need to remain ‘professional’.  However that’s all very well as far as it goes.  Pharmacists indeed need to be acquainted with the pharmaceutical facts about drugs.  However, every person is not a mere functionary equipped with only technical data to fulfil a physical task. 

We human beings, by virtue of our origin, our vocation and our last end are physical, mental, spiritual and moral beings, whose actions affect the welfare of others.  Every one of us has a duty of care to our fellow human beings.  Our actions in virtually every area of life have moral consequences.  That’s why professions have a code of ethics.   There is surely a duty of care to pharmacist trainees to equip them to properly deal with all the dimensions of areas they are being groomed to deal with.  For example, it would negligent for the fire service to train trainee firemen how to use a fire extinguisher without training them to properly use smokemasks and breathing apparatus.   When I underwent my pharmacist training, we were trained in the scientific facts on contraceptive products.  On graduation it was assumed every graduate would then unquestioningly enter into the professional workplace and fully participate in every area of practice.  The bigger picture wasn’t filled out. It was never pointed out that pharmacists by handling contraception would be distributing a product that attacked the every essence of marriage, procreation and spousal relationships.  Contraceptive promotion encroaches onto sacred ground.  In dealing with procreation every man is called to act with the most profound reverence and stewardship according to his station.  In his encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae John Paul II stated that:

“Whoever attacks human life in some way attacks God himself”.[5] 

Attacking God is not an enviable place for anyone to be. 

There are serious questions for healthcare professionals.  Each new day is an opportunity granted to ensure we are right with God before our departure from this earth. I believe Jesus Christ would ask every single pharmacist in the nation to give up dispensing and selling contraceptive products.  I believe He would ask the same of every doctor, healthcare professional, social worker and family planning worker.



[1]L’Osservatore Romano, English Weekly Edition, No. 6, 9 February 1994, Rome

[2]Pope Benedict XVI, 25th International Congress of Catholic Pharmacists, 29th October 2007, Rome

[3]Pope John Paul II cfEVn74

[5]Evangelium Vitae n9