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U.K. church leaders: Pharmacists could be forced to dispense lethal drugs


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MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- The Catholic Church has predicted that British pharmacists could be forced to dispense lethal drugs under plans to prohibit conscientious objection on the grounds of religion.

Proposals by the General Pharmaceutical Council, the regulatory body that sets professional standards for the industry throughout Britain, were criticized by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales and the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, a Catholic institute serving the Catholic Church in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

The pharmaceutical council announced in December that it wished to change "the expectations of pharmacy professionals when their religion, personal values or beliefs might ... impact on their ability to provide services, and shift the balance in favor of the needs and rights of the person in their care."

It intends to order pharmacists to "take responsibility for ensuring that person-centered care is not compromised because of personal values and beliefs."

"We understand the importance of a pharmacy professional's religion, personal values or beliefs, but we want to make sure people can access the advice, care and services they need from a pharmacy, when they need them," said Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council. "We recognize that this represents a significant change."

Interested parties were given until March 7 to express their views on the proposed changes.

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