Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Discussion of Canadian Plan B and privacy issues in the BMJ

The British Medical Journal has an article on the current controversy in Canada over the collection of personal information in connection with dispensing the morning after pill, aka Plan B: Advice to pharmacists on dispensing contraception an "invasion of privacy" -- Spurgeon 331 (7529): 1360 -- BMJ.

There is also a letter to the editor in the December 9 edition that raises one of the most significant issues for pharmacists. Namely, the role of pharmacists in the dispensing of such drugs: Rapid Responses for Spurgeon, 331 (7529) 1360:

Spurgeon's news(1) seems to fall into a recurrent BMJ bias: forgetting the clinical role of the pharmacist. The text seems to state that pharmacists gathering relevant clinical information are invading patient privacy. This leads to a dichotomy: Is a physician invading patient privacy when gathering patient clinical information? Or, do pharmacists invade patient privacy because they should not act clinically?

Obviously, there is no doubt to the first question. Assessing clinical situations requires some information about patient health status, but also about patient life style. So, a healthcare professional needs information to make a decision, and sometimes this information can be considered as private. Thus, confidentiality is expected.

But, what about the second question? Is this the never-ending story? When are we going to shoot(2) the pharmacist? How big should be the evidence of the benefits of the clinical role of pharmacist working together with the other healthcare professionals?

And the most important question, why do not give the right to choice to the patient? If patients want to give that private information to their pharmacists, why should another healthcare professional disagree?

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