Dispensing morality

A pharmacist in New South Wales, Trevor Dal Broi, has decided that oh noes, contraception is against god’s will, so he won’t be selling it in his shop. [link]

He’s in a small town, Griffith, and there are about five other pharmacies in town, so no one is going to be unable to buy contraceptives at all. But the next pharmacy is over a kilometer away as the crow flies, and as far as I can tell (my google-map skills are limited), about 1.5km away as the wolf runs. [link] So some people are going to suffer some inconvenience.

But more than that, I’m concerned by this person imposing his peculiar morality on the community he is supposed to serve. Who on earth does he think he is, that instead of dispensing the medicine that people need, he hands out the women-hating morality of the Catholic church instead?

The problem is that as a pharmacist, he takes the government’s coin and gets government protection. Pharmacies in Australia are partially government funded, via pricing and subsidy rules for medicines. That’s the government coin. And there are strict rules about where new pharmacies may be located, providing a massive trade protection to existing pharmacies. In return, they are supposed to provide pharmaceutical services for the area in which they are located (PDF – go to p. 22).

25.1. The objectives of the Location Rules are to ensure:
a. all Australians have access to PBS* medicines;
b. a commercially viable and sustainable network of community pharmacies
dispensing PBS medicines;
c. improved efficiency through increased competition between pharmacies;
d. improved flexibility to respond to the community need for pharmacy
e. increased local access to community pharmacies for persons in rural and
remote regions of Australia; and
f. continued development of an effective, efficient and well-distributed
community pharmacy network in Australia.

* Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

He is exploiting the resources that our government gives him in order to push his own religious views. I dislike his religious views, intensely, but frankly, if he wants to spend his Sundays on his knees before some sky-fairy, well, that’s his business. But his job is a public one, part publicly funded and publicly protected. It’s as if a police officer decided to hand out tracts with speeding tickets, or an ATO officer remitted taxes in return for prayers.

It’s not possible to tell whether or not Trevor Dal Broi is a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, but there’s a good chance that he is; the Society represents about 80% of all Australian pharmacists. If he is, he might care to take a look as his Society’s code of conduct. He supposed to “respect the clients’ right to choose whether or not they participate in any treatment” and “respect the skills and expertise of other health professionals and work cooperatively with them to optimise the health outcomes of their mutual clients.” So he’s tromping all over the client’s right to choose, and getting in the middle of the relationship between doctor and patient. He is also not supposed to work in an environment where professional independence, judgment or integrity is impaired. A church is not a workplace, but it does seem that he is allowing his church, and his religious beliefs, to impair his professional independence, judgment and integrity as a pharmacist.


26 responses to “Dispensing morality

  1. I’d bet he sell Viagra, though.

  2. If he doesn’t like the pill, he doesn’t have to take it. If he doesn’t like wearing condoms, he doesn’t have to wear one but he damn well has no right to push his views onto the general public. Outrageous.

  3. I certainly hope the community responded with an immediate, complete, and far-reaching boycott of his pharmacy.

  4. I support him. I don’t believe he should be made to do something that he believes is morally wrong.

  5. In that case, he needs to think very carefully about whether he can continue to be a pharmacist.

  6. TimT he’s a legal drugs distributor. He’s already morally bankrupt. He’s clearly incapable of carrying out his work with any professionalism. He must resign NOW!

  7. That’s what Jeremy was saying too, but I don’t agree.


    There’s no reason to alienate a large number of potential health workers (ie conservative Catholics, Catholic health care in general) because they don’t sell a particular product or service. Health care will work better if there are more providers offering a wider range of services.

  8. I think being non-judgmental is a very important characteristic of good health care, regardless of whether it concerns doctors, nurses, pharmacists, counsellors, therapists or whatever.

  9. The need to protect female reproductive freedom outweighs “offending” any religious group.

  10. Hm, it might be offensive (certainly inconvenient) to some people if a dairy owner decided not to stock Playboy but would it be immoral?
    The government coin aspect does muddy the waters somewhat. It would be nice to be able to say let him run his shop the way he wants.
    If he does back down in the face of a boycott or something then other people will have successfully imposed their morality on him and made him act against his conscience.

  11. Hmmmm not quite sure what Playboy and dairy owners have to do with each other. What a pointless argument you have made.

    We’re talking about products which have been sanctioned by the government and the medical profession and are put there to PROTECT PEOPLE (not put there to provide men with an erection) from disease and unwanted pregnancy. You can’t go around using some weird and whacky random woman hating religion as an excuse not to do your job.

  12. Pingback: Griffith chemist Trevor Dal Broi and catholic dogma that restricts choice | Jesus All About Life LIES

  13. These people should not be given a position of social responsibility where they cannot discern that their right not to use condoms and not to use contraception is totally different to someone elses right to use them.

    Providers should be providing the same wide range of services, your calling for it to start being segmented up based on what people want to sell, not the fact they have chosen a public service position that earns them a lot of money, then turn around and start using that authority to dictate to women. Women cop enough in our patriarchal society than to be pressured over decisions that for some are not easy at all, and the chemists personal faith should not impact on the person acheiving adequate access to services, especially medical services.
    Next you will be saying that doctors should be able to not treat homosexuals if they are religious, as it will ‘work better if there are more doctors providing a wide range of services’

  14. Hmmmm not quite sure what Playboy and dairy owners have to do with each other.

    I would have thought this would be obvious for anyone who has been in a dairy? But the point would apply to anything normally sold in a dairy, such as cigarettes. The owner might decide that he’s not going to sell them for moral reasons, which means any customers who disagree with his moral decision have to shop elsewhere.

    In this case the dairy owner hasn’t imposed his morality on anyone else, even if they are inconvenienced. He’s simply refused to facilitate what they want to do – ie put nicotine into their lungs.

    I doubt that any Catholic pharmacist would expect that failing to supply contraceptives would prevent anyone who wants them from obtaining them. More likely it’s his own morality he is concerned about – he doesn’t want to profit from, or be involved in, something he believes is immoral. He will probably pay a price for this, obviously in his case he feels it is worth paying. It’s going too far to expect the state (or the community or whatever) to try to bend him to its will and force him to act against his conscience. That would truly be a case of imposing morality on others.

    Obviously most of the people here believe their morality is superior to this adherant of a “woman-hating” religion. Does that mean that their morality should prevail through force?

  15. Different places sell different things – this is pretty uncontroversial. The media has chosen to beat this up because the politics of the issue always provokes divisive arguments, and hence makes for lots of juicy stories and opinion columns.

    Medication is sometimes necessary to keep us healthy. Well, so is food. But we don’t see media outrage at the fact that some stores don’t stock food for, say, people who are gluten intolerant, or have other allergies that they need to consider. And we could apply the ‘but what if they are the only store in town’ argument to this situation as well, since there are plenty of country towns that I’ve been through that only have one place that sells food.

  16. TimT, you seem to be totally ignoring the point that is clearly stated in the article. They are partially government funded, trade protected so that they can service the area they are in. They also authorised to dispense medication that does need prescription not just over the counter. It’s not like anyone can just set up a chemist. They are the only gateway for that resource in many areas. Your analogy is flawed, and the issue lies in that flaw.

  17. People don’t lose the right to make conscientious decisions just because they’re government workers.

  18. If their choice infringes on the rights of others to access medication as they are authorised by the state as the representative to dispense it, they should not be given the social responsibility , they should have it removed and given to someone that is impartial.
    The communities access to impartial, non judgmental access to medication prescribed by their doctor should not meet with a delegated representative for distribution of that drug, that ethically will not dispense it. They should not be in that job.

  19. But the normal thing to do is to resign, if according to your conscience you can’t tolerate the decision made by government.

  20. Well we’re arguing in circles now, and will clearly never agree.

  21. I think the key thing is that this guy holds a government sponsored local monopoly.

  22. Takes me back to the introduction of the contraceptive pill in the 1960s when numerous GPs, mostly Catholic ones, decided they would not prescribe it. There were whole regions of New Zealand where women had to travel to another town to get a prescription.
    Back to the future.

  23. My local pharmacist worked with this guy when he was a new graduate. He was arrogant and unprofessional, arguing with her in front of customers. If you have a problem with dispensing medication then you should not choose to become a pharmacist. What next, Seventh Day Adventist doctors in the ER refusing to transfuse patients? I believe the conscience argument is deeply flawed. Not dispensing prescribed medication is unconscionable, it is the imposition of your moral views on someone else and a clear breach of duty of care.

  24. It is a sad state to find ourselves in when we have doctors who refuse to provide birth control advice or prescriptions and pharmacists who won’t supply contraception. In Cairns we have both. We are endeavouring to have such clinics/practices post information notices in their waiting rooms to give patients the choice of leaving for another clinic.

  25. It is a question of ethical choices. On one hand, he is ethically obligated to sell them because of his career and on the other hand, he is obligated NOT to sell them because of his religion. I’m not saying he’s right or wrong, all I’m saying is that he is in a tough spot. And it affects the general public.