Life-sustaining treatment law: a model for balancing a woman's reproductive rights with a pharmacist's conscientious objection.

Author:Langlois, Natalie

Natalie Langlois, Life-Sustaining Treatment Law: A Model for Balancing a Woman's Reproductive Rights With a Pharmacist's Conscientious Objection, 47 B.C.L. REV. 815 (2006).

In recent years, there have been several incidents where pharmacists refused to dispense prescriptions for "emergency contraception," because of their ethical, moral, or religious beliefs. There have been reports in California, Washington, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Texas, New Hampshire, Ohio, and North Carolina. State law has attempted to address this problem in various ways, but frequently fails to balance adequately the rights of a woman to access lawful contraceptive prescriptions against a pharmacist's right to conscientiously object. This Note argues that pharmacist refusal laws should seek guidance from a similar conflict in the life-sustaining treatment context. Life-sustaining treatment law permits a health care provider to refuse to comply with a patient's decision regarding life-sustaining treatment, but imposes additional duties on the health care provider who does so. These additional duties--requiring the health care provider to notify the patient of its policy in advance and transfer the patient to another health care facility--prevent both the patient's and health care provider's rights from being compromised. The Note concludes that analogous transfer and notice requirements should be placed on pharmacists who conscientiously object to dispensing contraceptive prescriptions.

Refusal laws have expanded not only to cover health care services other than abortion and contraception, such as life-sustaining treatment, but also to include health care providers other than doctors and nurses who were not initially included in refusal laws. Specifically, pharmacists have asserted their right to object.

The American Pharmaceutical Association has stated that "emergency contraception" does not cause an abortion. According to this view, implantation of the fertilized egg establishes a pregnancy Unlike RU-486, which acts after implantation of the egg into the uterus, "emergency contraception" acts before implantation of the fertilized egg into the uterus, and thus cannot disrupt an established pregnancy. It is therefore not an abortifacient under this view.

Pro-life groups, however, contend that emergency contraception does cause an abortion. For example, Pharmacists for Life, a pro-life association of pharmacists, believes that pregnancy begins with...

To continue reading