Worried mum Jo-Ann Thomas was left stunned when a Muslim pharmacist refused her a morning after pill on religious grounds.
Jo-Ann, aged 37, a school lollipop lady, went to her local chemist but when she asked for the pill she was told she would have to speak to the pharmacist.
She was told she would be quizzed by the pharmacist – described by staff as a “deeply religious Muslim” who would ask her a few questions.
But after waiting for several minutes another assistant told Jo-Ann her: “Sorry I can’t give you the pill, why don’t you go to your GP.”
When she asked repeatedly she was told the chemist stocked the drug but the pharmacist had refused to sell it to her.
Mum of two Jo-Ann from Thurcroft, Rotherhamm said: “I asked why I couldn’t have the pill and the assistant went bright red and after a pause said ‘ I can’t tell you’.”
I said: “I want to know why and she said ‘don’t say anything to anyone – it’s because of his religion’.”
I just stared at her with my mouth open.
“I asked for the pill because you have to take it within 72 hours and this was now 36 hours. I don’t want to increase my family and this was an accident so I needed to take the pill. In the end I had to go to the doctor’s surgery.”
“I was angry because he is a dispensing chemist and it is his job to dispense drugs. If he can’t do that on religious grounds then perhaps he should not be in the profession.”
The row flared up when Jo-Ann called at her local branch of Lloyd’s Pharmacy in Green Arbour Road, Thurcroft.
She said: “This is a perfectly legal drug but there is a man introducing his own laws. It cannot be right that he can pick and choose the drugs he sells.”
“I am a 37-year-old woman and not a daft girl who does not know what she is doing. And the chemist has no right to tell me whether I can or can’t take the pill. It’s my choice not his. It his his religion not mine.”
“How many young girls has he turned away who need the pill? If they are his views why didn’t he come and face me and tell me. The chemist staff were trying to cover up for him and were embarrassed.”
Pharmacy has duty to provide information
The pharmacists and staff at the pharmacy refused to comment but Dr John Radford, Rotherham’s Director of Public Health said: “Pharmacists do have the right to use their discretion in selling over the counter drugs. These drugs will be stocked by the pharmacy to be supplied when a prescription is written by a doctor.”
“Any pharmacy refusing to sell a drug has a duty to provide the customer with information as to where they can obtain it including over the counter at an alternative pharmacy or via their GP or practice nurse on prescription.”
A spokesman for Lloyd’s which operates 1,300 pharmacies across the country said : “We would like to take this opportunity to apologise to the customer.”
“However, a pharmacist’s personal decision to refuse to supply the morning after pill is an issue for the community pharmacy as a whole.”
“The code of ethics put in place by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain allows pharmacists via a conscience clause the right to refuse.”
“The code states that if supplying the morning after pill is contrary to a pharmacist’s personal religious or moral beliefs they are entirely within their rights not to supply it.”
A member of staff at the pharmacy said: “The regular pharmacist is on holiday for two weeks and we have been told not to comment. I cannot say if we would sell the morning after pill over the counter today.”