A YOUNG woman has been refused the morning-after pill because of her chemist’s religious beliefs.
Customers at Lloyds Pharmacy in Slaithwaite were stunned when a row erupted over a prescription for emergency contraception.
The woman in her 20s – who has not been named – was turned away from the packed shop on Carr Lane because the stand-in chemist behind the counter said it was against his religious beliefs to supply the drug.
The pill is routinely given to women up to 72 hours after having unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy.
One woman customer in the shop at the time was appalled by what she heard.
She said: “I was just horrified. The woman clearly needed the pill and her doctor felt she needed it too.
“Who is a pharmacist to give his judgement over what has been discussed between a doctor and his patient?
“It is absolutely disgraceful. I will never use that chemist’s again.”
The incident happened at about 11am on Wednesday, when the woman came into the shop with a prescription for the emergency pill.
After a heated discussion with the chemist in front of customers the woman was eventually taken into a side cubicle and told where else she could go to get the pill.
Today the chemist – who refused to give his name – told the Examiner he had done nothing wrong.
He said: “The Royal Pharmaceutical Society gives us grounds not to supply on ethical or religious grounds.
“I was not willing to give it to her because of my religious beliefs. But my job is to signpost her to the nearest chemist who would give it and that is what I did.”
The society, which governs the professional conduct of chemists, said the man was within his rights by refusing the drug on religious grounds.
Its code of ethics on emergency hormonal contraception states: “Before accepting employment pharmacists must disclose any factors which may affect their ability to provide services.
“Where a pharmacist’s religious beliefs or personal convictions prevent them from providing a service they must not condemn or criticise the patient and they or a member of staff must advise the patient of alternative sources for the service requested.”
A spokesman for Kirklees Primary Care Trust, which manages contracts for pharmacist provision in the area, said: “Under the professional code of conduct produced by the society pharmacists have the right to decline to dispense medication on the basis of religious or ethical grounds. However, under the code of conduct, they must direct patients to an alternative place to obtain medication.”
A spokesman for Lloyds Pharmacy said: “The society’s code of ethics allows pharmacists, via a conscience clause, the right to refuse to dispense or sell the morning-after pill.
“The code states that if supplying the treatment is contrary to a pharmacist's personal, religious or moral beliefs they are entirely within their rights not to supply it.
“Lloyds Pharmacy recognises that this is a highly sensitive issue.
“On the rare occasions the situation arises we instruct our staff to do everything they can to resolve the matter, for example by referring the customer back to their GP or to an alternative supplier of the product.”