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Saturday: February 25, 2006

That Didn’t Take Long

Filed under: — site admin @ 12:17 AM UTC

For the last month or two, I’ve been intending to post a particular line of argument that had occurred to me, but I never found the time. It has suddenly become even more timely, so here it is.

It’s very simple. Suppose you believe, as many do, that pharmacists should be legally obligated to dispense birth control pills or ‘morning-after’ pills to anyone with a prescription, whatever their own personal religious beliefs, or that all hospitals, even the Catholic ones, should be legally obligated to provide abortions to those who ask for them. Do you also think that a pharmacist* who opposes the death penalty should be legally obligated to sell the state whatever drugs are needed to perform a court-mandated execution? If not, how do you distinguish the two cases?

I had thought that my argument was a mere thought-experiment. Now that a California judge has indefinitely delayed an execution because the state cannot find a licensed physician willing to participate, it (or something very like it) has become quite timely. If you think pharmacists can be ordered to dispense birth-control or ‘morning-after’ pills, do you also think that California doctors can be ordered to participate in an execution or lose their right to practice? If not, why not?

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*I suppose the chemicals that make a lethal injection lethal may come not from a pharmacy but from the kind of company that supplies chemicals to chemists and chemistry teachers and manufacturers. If so, feel free to substitute “chemical supply company employee” for “pharmacist” above.

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