Pharmacists and the "Duty" To Dispense Emergency Contraceptives

Spreng, Jennifer E.
March 2008
Issues in Law & Medicine;Spring2008, Vol. 23 Issue 3, p215
Academic Journal
Stories abound of both women with prescriptions turned away at the pharmacy door and members of the most trusted health care profession losing jobs and running afoul of ethics rules. Scholars have spilt much intellectual ink divining whether a pharmacist must dispense Plan B, the primary emergency contraceptive. Now, many are calling for a common law "duty to dispense" that could serve as a foundation for a wrongful pregnancy action against a dissenting pharmacist. Such a duty simply does not arise from established tort principles or pharmacist-specific precedents. Only in rare circumstances will a pharmacist and customer have the type and quality of relationship giving rise to a duty to dispense. Nevertheless, law changes over time and makes allowances for unique circumstances. Pharmacists are taking on more responsibility for drug therapy. They have an awkward role in the distribution of Plan B. Moreover, while the law may protect pharmacists' consciences, it may not be so receptive to pharmacists-as-activists. Dissenting pharmacists can take practical steps to protect themselves today, but tomorrow is another day.


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