Pharmacist Conscience Clauses

By Joanna Sax

Multiple states have statutes that protect a pharmacist from liability for refusing to fill a prescription for an FDA approved medication.  Other states have laws that require pharmacists to fill prescriptions regardless of their personal beliefs.  The debate surrounding conscience clause legislation falls at two opposing spectrums.  Opponents to conscience clauses argue that refusal to fulfill a prescription for a non-medical reason interferes with the doctor-patient relationship and disproportionately effects women because it is often employed with prescriptions for birth control.  Supporters of conscience clause legislation argue that pharmacists have a constitutional right and that their personal beliefs should be respected.

These two sides will never meet.  They will continue to argue notions of fairness and each side will dig-in their heels.

I’ve proposed a different approach to analyze whether pharmacist conscience clauses are beneficial to society using welfare economics.  In short, the pharmacist conscience clauses serve as an affirmative defense in an action for professional negligence.  Pharmacist conscience clauses can be analogized to a no-care regime and arguably not maximize the well-being of individuals.  To see more of my argument of analyzing conscience clauses using an economic approach, you can check out my article here.

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