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Conscience Magazine

Britain’s General Pharmaceutical Council Retains Conscience Clause

November 16, 2017

The General Pharmaceutical Council, the body which regulates the British pharmaceutical industry’s professional standards, has decided to retain its conscience clause allowing for pharmacists to refer patients to other professionals if they feel they cannot provide certain medications in good conscience. The decision follows an earlier statement by the council that it was considering removing its conscience clause so that care could not be “compromised because of personal values and beliefs.” This statement was met with concern from Catholic bishops across Britain, some of whom met with the council to express that personal beliefs and the consistent provision of care were not incompatible. While the council’s guidance retains the clause, the organization stressed that a prioritization of “person-centered care” requires pharmacists to ensure that every patient receives uncompromised pharmaceutical assistance and care. In December of last year the council worried that “a referral to another service provider might not be the right option, or enough, to ensure that person-centered care is not compromised.” The new policy attempts to unite the protection of pharmacists with a commitment to uncompromised patient care. Nonetheless, it is unclear how the industry will interpret the adjustment. During the comment period on the policy, which garnered a record response rate for the council, the majority of pharmacy professionals who commented welcomed the intended change dropping the conscience clause.