Union University
Union University Dept of Language


A Prescription for the End of Pharmacy

Director of the Institute for Intellectual Discipleship

July 10, 2009 - A U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington ruled this week that pharmacists must distribute the abortifacent drug known as Plan B. (HT: Mere Comments) The American Humanist Association lauded this decision as one that will “protect women's right to reproductive health care from attempts by the religious right to push their morality onto others.” Apparently though, the American Humanist Association has no qualms about pushing its morality on to everyone else. For in their press release in praise of the circuit court’s decision, they unashamedly state: “Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.”

What’s astounding about such Adamic hubris is that it fails to recognize the de-humanizing effect of the court’s ruling. Insofar as it is uniquely human, the work of a pharmacist is essentially moral. Pharmacists, like all healthcare providers, must use characteristically human capacities to make judgments about what is in the best interest of those patients who are in their care. To be sure, making such judgments is intimately connected with the complex conversational transactions that occur between patient and caregiver. Moreover, the formation of those judgments must adequately account for the moral weight of patient autonomy. However, if the work of a pharmacist is to be human (as opposed to merely mechanical), then not only must such judgments be made; but they must be made in a context that affords a sufficient freedom for the moral reasoning that necessarily attends such decisions. This is why freedom and the right of conscience are vital in healthcare.

The 9th circuit court’s decision, if upheld, is the end of pharmacy in Washington as a distinctly human vocation. The mandate that all pharmacists must stock and dispense what the impersonal engines of government bureaucracy require removes the uniquely human task of responsible moral deliberation. Soda vending machines do not think about what is in the best interest of the consumer. They simply dispense product in keeping with the consumer’s desire. Apparently, the 9th circuit court in Washington has a fairly low view of the work of pharmacists. For now, provided that the right buttons have been pushed, the local pharmacist in Washington need not think at all. Just dispense.

It’s baffling how the American Humanist Association can view a ruling like this as contributing to the “value of self and humanity.” Then again, the concepts self and humanity are abstractions. In Genesis 2, God did not create an abstraction. He did not create a “self.” He did not create “humanity.” He got down in the dirt, and in the words of the African-American poet James Weldon Johnson, “He thought, ’I'll make me a man!’.”

The reality is that those who profess their support for “humanity” are in love with an abstract idol of their own making. It is man they hate. They hate that finite, imperfect, frail, biological creature made of dust. For his concreteness is a reminder of his created-ness – a creation that is not of their own making. Thus, the concrete creature is a constant reminder of the Creator in whose image they too are made. But having “exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served” idols of their own making “rather than the Creator” they are compelled by the internal logic of their own position to eradicate man altogether. Thus, they create legal machinations by which killing agents can be dispensed to eliminate the tiniest men by those who, by virtue of being constrained by those machinations, are no longer men.