PSMO-01 - Professional autonomy by managing concerns in pharmacy practice — A new framework for decision making in conscientious objection

Great Hall 1


Prof. Betty Chaar, University of Sydney, Australia and Dr Kofi Boamah Mensah, KNUST, Ghana


In 2019 we conducted the first workshop on conscientious objection at the FIP Congress in Abu Dhabi. This proposed workshop builds on the first, presenting findings of further research and development of guidelines useful to pharmacists worldwide. Conscientious objection (CO) is :“[A] practitioner’s refusal to provide a service primarily because the action would violate their deeply held moral values”. CO is often associated with, but not exclusive to, religious faith of any denomination. In almost every code of professional ethics, you are likely to find an obscure statement about conscientious objection, with little guidance on management. This is because, historically, there has been little reason to challenge the status quo in professional and social norms. Today, as advances in technology, medicines and therapeutic innovation are expanding exponentially, introducing humanity to unprecedented and often challenging new matters to contemplate such as Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) and medical abortion, the scope of CO has expanded. Even without innovation, one need only reflect on the recent overturning of the right to legal abortion (relating to Roe v Wade) in the USA, to understand the profound impact CO can have on society in its entirety. In most non-healthcare related professions (e.g. sports professionals) CO generally does not harm anyone other than the conscientious objector themself (e.g. loss of income or sponsorship, employment, clientele etc). In healthcare however, depending on the circumstances and availability of alternatives, CO has the added potential to cause actual harm to the recipient of the service, i.e. the patient. This harm could range from inconvenience to a possible denial of access to required medication, with consequences leading to a detrimental effect on health and well-being. As a front-line healthcare profession pharmacy allows for CO, but do we know how to manage it? In this session we will share results of a world-wide survey and consultation around CO and the development of a provisional framework for managing CO in pharmacy practice. These guidelines have been developed based on wide consultation with essential stakeholders, including the voice of the consumer, and other stakeholders and healthcare providers. Together with experts in the field, we will an je ddaalso explore various scenarios of CO in practice to encourage self-awareness and a better understanding.



11:00 – 11:05 Session introduction by the chairs
11:05 – 11:25 Introducing a conscientious objection decision-making framework
Dr Sami Isaac, University of Sydney, Australia
11:25 – 11:45 Conscientious objection in pharmacy — Perspectives from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region
Dr Leen Fino, Applied Science Private University, Amman, Jordan
11:45 – 12:00 Discussion of case studies
12:00 – 12:25 Discussion and deliberations with panel and chairs
12:25 – 12:30 Conclusion

Learning objectives

  • To create a better understanding of the concept of conscientious objection and its impact on patient and professional well-being
  • To introduce a practical framework for ethical decision making, specifically for the management of conscientious objection in pharmacy practice
  • To showcase lived experiences and opinions from pharmacists across the globe in relation to scenarios that evoke conscientious objection
  • To create self-awareness of our own implicit biases and conscientious objections that could impact patient care

Take home messages

Every professional has the right to conscientious objection (CO). However, in pharmacy practice, CO needs to be managed sensitively and transparently to enhance, rather than disadvantage, patient care. Self-awareness of one’s own CO is the first step towards this process. Adopting a clear decision-making protocol can help manage CO in the pharmacy setting. Building on lived experiences, research, and wide consultation this session will provide a framework for protocol-development in pharmacy practice around the world.