How does conscientious objection work in pharmacy practice?

If a pharmacy professional declines to provide a pharmacy service on the basis of a conscientious objection, he or she is required to adhere to the Colleges’ Code of Ethics, Standard 1 (g)(iii), cooperating in effective transfers of care initiated by the patient (without needing to make a referral).

Pharmacy professionals need to inform their pharmacy manager and employer of a conscientious objection either before they accept employment or at the earliest opportunity.

Pharmacies should have a process in place to ensure that in the case where a pharmacy professional conscientiously objects to providing a service, the patient can be directed to an alternate provider for the service in a timely manner.

Standard 1: Registrants Protect and Promote the Health and Well-Being of Patients

(g) Registrants must provide pharmacy services requested by patients and may only refuse to provide these services for any of the following reasons:

(iii) the provision of the product or service is contrary to the sincerely held conscientious or religious belief of a registrant, in which case the registrant must ensure that:

  • they have informed and explained to the pharmacy manager and employer of their conscientious or religious belief before they accept employment;
  • if the belief is formed after employment is accepted, they inform the pharmacy manager and employer at the earliest opportunity; o they do not discuss their personal beliefs or ask patients to disclose or justify their own beliefs;
  • they participate in a process designed to exercise their freedom of conscience and religion in a manner that respects the patient's right to receive products and services in a timely manner and in a way that minimizes suffering and hardship to the patient;
  • they fulfill their duty of care to the patient in a manner that is nonjudgmental, continuous and non-discriminatory;
  • in the event of failure of the system developed to ensure the timely delivery of the product or service, and notwithstanding the registrant’s conscientious or religious beliefs, they provide patients with enough information and assistance to allow them to make informed choices for themselves;
  • they cooperate in effective transfers of care initiated by the patient and are not required to make a referral; and
  • they do not rely on conscientious or religious beliefs in order to discriminate against any patient on morally irrelevant grounds including those outlined in Standard 3, Guideline g of this Code.