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Ethics – Freedom of conscience

August 2017

Pharmacists are free to practice according to their conscience, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has agreed.

In new guidelines, the GPhC overwrote old guidance, which could have seen Christians have to choose between their faith or their job. This is because they may have been forced to provide access to abortifacient drugs.

The GPhC previously stated that allowing personal religious values and beliefs to influence dispensing practice was ‘not compatible’ with the ‘person-centred’ care they wanted to offer

However, the new guidelines now recognise the value of religion within their new guidance, and explicitly mentions the ‘right to conscience’, as recognised in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Dr Dan Boucher, UK director of parliamentary affairs for Christian charity CARE, commented: ‘This reversal is a great victory for freedom of conscience in the UK and highlights the value that people of faith bring to the pharmacy profession.

‘People should not have to compromise their faith for their job. CARE is pleased that the GPhC has revised its earlier guidance to reflect this’.