Lloyds Pharmacy apologises to woman refused emergency contraception
A UK pharmacy chain has apologised after a woman was refused emergency contraception because the pharmacist said it went against her personal beliefs.
Siani, 41, who did not want to give her surname, pre-ordered and paid for contraception online through the Lloyds Pharmacy website.
After arriving at a branch in Brighton to collect the medication, the pharmacist told her the product was ready but that she would not dispense it for “personal reasons”.
The pharmacist did not disclose the reasons and was the only staff member in the store at the time.
Despite being assured online that she could collect from any outlet, Siani was told to either return the next day or go to the nearest open branch – 10 miles away in Newhaven.
“I just don’t think that’s really offering an acceptable alternative at all,” she said.
“I’m shocked that a big company like Lloyds can discriminate against women by having their only branch in the city that’s open on a Sunday staffed by a lone pharmacist who won’t dispense women’s services.”
Siani said she did not want to “go after” an individual for her beliefs but thought it was “really important that women’s access to reproductive health services isn’t obstructed, and a big company like Lloyds ought to ensure that they make reasonable accommodation to ensure that if people won’t dispense some medicines, they have other staff available who will.”
Lloyds Pharmacy said it was looking into the incident and admitted there was “more the pharmacist could have done for the patient”.
A spokesperson said the company encouraged pharmacists to use professional judgment but expected them to follow General Pharmaceutical Council guidelines on the application of personal beliefs.
These guidelines specify that pharmacists are obliged to “recognise their own values and beliefs but … not impose them on other people” and “take responsibility for ensuring that person-centred care is not compromised because of personal values and beliefs”.
The spokesperson apologised for “the distress and frustration” caused by the incident and said the company had reached out to Siani to ensure she had received the support she needed.
Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality party, expressed concern and said “women’s reproductive rights are under threat the world over”.
“It is not the decision of individual pharmacists to dictate women’s reproductive rights. I would expect the pharmacist to be sanctioned in the same way as if they denied any other health treatment or medicine,” she said.
A petition to prevent pharmacists refusing to dispense medication because of personal beliefs has been launched in response to the incident.