Religion and conscientious objection: a survey of pharmacists’ willingness to dispense medications

Laura A.Davidson, Clare T.Pettis, Amber J.Joiner, Daniel M.Cook, Craig M.Klugmand

Social Science & Medicine

Abstract: Some US states allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense medications to which they have moral objections, and federal rules for all health care providers are in development. This study examines whether demographics such as age, religion, gender influence 668 Nevada pharmacists’ willingness to dispense or transfer five potentially controversial medications to patients 18 years and older: emergency contraception, medical abortifacients, erectile dysfunction medications, oral contraceptives, and infertility medications. Almost 6% of pharmacists indicated that they would refuse to dispense and refuse to transfer at least one of these medications.  Religious affiliation significantly predicted pharmacists’ willingness to dispense emergency contraception and medical abortifacients, while age significantly predicted pharmacists’ willingness to distribute infertility medications.  Evangelical Protestants, Catholics and other-religious pharmacists were significantly more likely to refuse to dispense at least one medication in comparison to non-religious pharmacists in multinomial logistic regression analyses.  Awareness of the influence of religion in the provision of pharmacy services should inform health care policies that appropriately balance the rights of patients, physicians, and pharmacists alike.  The results from Nevada pharmacists may suggest similar tendencies among other health care workers, who may be given latitude to consider morality and value systems when making clinical decisions about care.


Davidson LA, Pettis CT, Joiner AJ, Cook DM, Klugman CM. Religion and conscientious objection: a survey of pharmacists’ willingness to dispense medications. Soc Sci Med. 2010 Jul;71(1):161-5. Epub 2010 Apr 13. PubMed PMID: 20447746