ADF International

German Pharmacists Chamber appeals ruling that upholds freedom of conscience

Summary

  • Association challenges judgment that protects its own members
  • Experts hopeful higher court will uphold the right to freedom of conscience

BERLIN (24 January 2020) – In Berlin, the case of a pharmacist being prosecuted for acting in line with his conscience continues. After he would not sell the ‘morning-after-pill’ for conscience reasons he recently faced legal proceedings initiated by the Berlin Chamber of Pharmacists. For the first time, a German court ruled on this matter and upheld his right to act in accordance with his conscience regarding the sale of certain products. The Pharmacists’ Chamber has now appealed against the decision. ADF International supports the pharmacist in this case.

“Nobody should be forced to choose between their conscience and their profession. The conscience rights of pharmacists are often, and sometimes deliberately, ill-defined in national law. Nevertheless, the right to act in accordance with one’s conscience is a fundamental right and pharmacists should be protected. Personal beliefs and conscience influence all areas of a person’s life and are not simply laid down in a professional setting. This pharmacist in Berlin faces legal proceedings for choosing to act in line with his conscience. At first instance, the court recognized that he did not violate the law and should not be forced to act against his personal convictions. We are hopeful that the appeal will confirm the positive result and send an even stronger message that conscience rights must be respected,” said Felix Böllmann, Legal Counsel for ADF International.

Conscience rights of pharmacists

Before his retirement, the pharmacist owned and operated a pharmacy in Berlin. In accordance with his conscience and his deeply held beliefs, he neither stocked nor sold the ‘morning-after-pill’. This drug can prevent the implantation of an embryo in the uterus and cause the death of an unborn child. After refusing to sell the product in his pharmacy, he was reported to the Berlin Pharmacists’ Chamber which took the matter to the Professional Court at the Administrative Court of Berlin.

Pharmacists’ Chamber files appeal against ruling

The recent hearing and judgment in the case ultimately saw the freedom of conscience of the pharmacist upheld. The court stated that the pharmacist had not neglected his professional duty and had the right to conscientiously object in such a situation. Now, the Pharmacists’ Chamber has filed an appeal challenging this ruling.

“The first instance ruling was a clear statement that the pharmacist had the right to act in line with his conscience and did not neglect his professional duty in doing so. The right to freedom of conscience must include the right to act accordingly. A free society relies upon its citizens acting conscientiously,” said Böllmann.

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