Sentenced in 2016 for refusing to sell an intrauterine device because of the product’s potential abortive effects, pharmacist Bruno Pichon has just submitted a request to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) “to respect freedom of conscience”.
In France, contrary to legislation governing other medical professionals, pharmacists have no right to conscientious objection despite the fact that they are “first in line when it comes to delivering products that could lead to an abortion” and possibly euthanasia in the future. Having refused to sell the product, the pharmacist was put on leave for one week. Despite his various appeals, including an appeal to the Court of Cassation, which refused to examine his case, the decision could not be lifted. And although, as emphasised by the ECLJ, which has supported the pharmacist’s efforts vis-a-vis the European institution, “the prohibition to practice pharmacy for one week may seem like a light sentence, the true significance of this sentence is that it obliges Mr Pichon to sell IUDs and other similar products (such as the morning-after pill) in the future, i.e. this sentence forces him to go against his conscience or leave the profession”.
“Worn out by these ordeals and unable to practice his profession with peace of mind in accordance with his moral convictions”, Bruno Pichon sold his pharmacy and is no longer a registered pharmacist. He is now turning to the ECHR because he is “thinking primarily of young colleagues who are forced to leave their chosen profession, and of all those practising pharmacists who want to follow their convictions but have no right to do so”.
In accordance with case law, the ECHR could condemn France and side in favour of the pharmacist. In fact, in 2011 it confirmed that it was up to the States to “guarantee […] the effective exercise of the freedom of conscience of health care professionals”. Resolutions passed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe have confirmed “the right to conscientious objection in the context of legal medical care”. And as the ECLJ points out, “protecting the freedom of conscience of medical professionals, especially pharmacists, implies guaranteeing their right not to take part in any action likely to harm human life”.
For further reading:
Pharmacists’ conscientious objection still threatened by abortion
Three steps to understanding conscientious objection
What has happened to conscientious objection?
The conscience clause for pharmacists is a human right
 European Centre for Law and Justice.
Famille Chrétienne ((11/07/2018) – ECLJ (12/07/2018) – Recours de M. Pichon à la CEDH : Pour la liberté de conscience des pharmaciens