In my blog for 11 October 2010 I brought to your attention a very good article written by Dr. Ruairi Hanley in the Irish Medical Times. It’s worth re-reading that article, particularly in the light of a more recent article written by Dr. Hanley in the same journal. What a pity that in the meantime the good doctor appears to have lost his way somewhat! This time, writing about the decision of Boots, the chemists, to sell the ‘morning-after’ pill over the counter – in other words, freely and without a doctor’s prescription – Dr. Hanley says:
‘The news that Boots is now dispensing the “morning-after” pill (MAP) without prescription has not gone down well with those in authority in our profession. The IMO [Irish Medical Organisation] and the ICGP [Irish College of General Practitioners] wasted little time in dispatching various spokespeople to criticise the move on national radio.‘As always, it would appear that I find myself on a different side of the argument to our leaders. The MAP is a highly effective medication that prevents unplanned pregnancy. In my opinion, it does not require a medical degree to prescribe it to an anxious patient.‘Unlike paracetamol, which can be purchased in petrol stations, emergency contraception cannot possibly be used to commit suicide by overdose.‘That, I believe, somewhat undermines the “patient safety” argument so beloved of opponents of this reform.‘Other doctors tend to argue that Boots employees are unqualified to offer counselling on possible STIs when dispensing the pill. This completely ignores the fact that the pharmacist will highlight this issue at the time of handing over the MAP and will advise the patient to follow up with their GP, should they have any concerns in this regard. The same principle also applies to future contraceptive needs.‘The truth is that this is exactly what most doctors do when prescribing emergency contraception in an out-of-hours service. The patient is given the MAP, a consent form to sign and is told to follow up with their GP re STI risk and to discuss longer-term contraception with them. …‘The MAP has been dispensed for 10 years in UK pharmacies without prescription and there has not been an associated dramatic rise in STI infection or other problems for women. …’He also suggests that the reason for the criticism of Boots on the part of the IMC and the ICGP is the fact that their members could suffer financially if the MAP were to be made more freely ‘available’ in pharmacies. He refers, too, to ‘that significant minority of their members who, for personal ethical reasons, refuse to prescribe the morning-after pill.’ He also acknowledges ‘the right of doctors to practise medicine according to their conscience …’
However, would someone please tell Dr. Hanley that the ‘morning-after’ pill can act as an abortifacient – killing the newly conceived human being by preventing him or her from implanting in their mother’s womb? ‘Patient safety’ concerns two patients – not just one patient. The second patient is likely to be exterminated by the so-called ‘morning-after’ pill.