America’s trust crisis, which has seen virtually all its institutions decline precipitously in public trust, hasn’t left the professions unscathed. Far from it: Gallups’ annual poll of the public’s regard for the professions, the most recent of which was released last December, showed accountants trusted by only 43% of the public (abysmal for a profession whose only mission is to accurately determine the truth and to relay it—funeral directors are trusted more), journalists at just 26% (which is more than they deserve), bankers at 25%, lawyers at an insulting 19% (for a profession that includes honesty as a core ethical requirement), business executives slightly less at 18% (but no lower than those champions of the 99%, labor leaders, also at 18%). Stockbrokers, who figure to have fallen even lower after Greg Smith’s anti-Goldman Sachs diatribe, came in at a “can’t be trusted to deliver the water bill payment” 12%, and then we’re really in the pits of utter distrust, with lobbyists, used car salesmen, and members of Congress, all tied for last place at 7%.
In contrast, one of the professions that always is on top of the list or near it is pharmacists. In 2011, the friendly neighborhood druggist scored a trust rate of 73%, better than doctors and second only to the perennial champs of the last decade, nurses.
Well, all that trust in pharmacists appears to be misplaced.
In a study performed by the Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center, researchers posing as 17-year-old girls seeking emergency contraception were told by almost 20% of pharmacists that they could not get the “morning-after” pill. U.S. federal regulations decree that girls 17 and older can buy emergency contraception without a prescription if they show proof of age, while girls 16 and younger need a doctor’s prescription.
“What we found was that emergency contraception was pretty available, in that 80 percent had it on the shelf that day,” said lead study author Dr. Tracey Wilkinson. “However, when teenagers asked if they could get the medicine, they were told they couldn’t get it at all, not with a prescription, not over-the-counter, just simply based on their age.” The study, published online March 26, appears in the April print issue of Pediatrics.
Researchers called all the commercial pharmacies in five major U.S. cities: Austin, Texas; Cleveland; Nashville, Tenn.; Philadelphia; and Portland, Oregon. Each of the 943 pharmacies were called twice, once by a “17-year-old girl” and once by a “physician.” Researchers spoke to pharmacists, pharmacy technicians or unidentified pharmacy staff. Four in five callers were told that the pharmacy had emergency contraception in stock. However, 19 percent of 17-year-old callers were told that they could not obtain emergency contraception under any circumstances, while 3 percent of physicians were told their 17-year-old patient could not obtain it.
The researchers don’t know whether the misinformation was intentional, because the pharmacists did not believe 17-year-old should have access to the drug, or inadvertent, because the pharmacists just didn’t know the law. As far as professionalism and trust is concerned, it doesn’t matter. Let’s assume that all the misinformation was accidental, based on the pharmacists not knowing the laws that affect their own business. It’s better than lying, but still outrageous. This is literally a life and death situation, and hardly an uncommon one. For a fifth of an entire profession to fail its professional obligations in this test by not knowing its own business is disgraceful and frightening. What else don’t the pharmacists know?
If 19% of a profession can’t be trusted in an emergency, do you know what? The entire profession is untrustworthy. Would you get on a plane knowing that a fifth of all pilots didn’t know how to land? Would you be confident getting orthopedic surgery if a study showed that a fifth of them didn’t know that “the kneebone ‘s connected to the thighbone”?
A profession that tolerates a 19% ignorance rate in a key area isn’t professional, and if we can’t trust a fifth of all pharmacists, we really can’t trust any of them.
But yes, we still should trust them more than members of Congress.
28 thoughts on “Our Untrusted Professions: Another One Bites The Dust…Or Should.”
How is it a life or death situation?
Usually in life or death situations, one would not rely on Walgreens or Sav-On to obtain lifesaving medication. It would be sort of like trying to buy a fire extinguisher after the kitchen catches fire.
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Not so sure… I think a LOT of it may be the fact that in many cases, 17-year-olds are still considered to be minors.
Honestly, I feel a little queasy about any minor buying medication when under 18.
It doesn’t matter if 17-year olds are considered minors in many realms (smoking, drinking, pornography, gambling), they are supposed to have access to emergency contraception.
You wouldn’t let a 16 year old buy advil?
Look, the baseline assumption in the United States, for any profession facing the public, when faced with a question in which they don’t know the answer is: “how do I avoid becoming sued?” In the United States, that’s the first thing that comes to mind. Will the patient’s (17 year old’s) parents sue me for giving contraception without their (=parent’s) consent? The likely response is, “…yes, probably.” So, why take the risk? Why SHOULD they take the risk? Even if the law is on their side, even if they DID know the law, in the United States, they can be sued anyway, and have to spend huge money to defend themselves, or succumb to “greenmail.” The matter is not so simple as you make it out to be, Jack.
I don’t understand. There is no discretion involved, therefore, no lawsuit is possible. If the law requires the request to be filled, they can’t be sued for filling it.
I’d say a lawsuit against a pharmacy for unlawfully withholding a timely drug that could prevent a pregnancy, thereby resulting in a pregnancy, an abortion, complications or a child is far more threatening and likely. Don’t you?
No. In a world of scrupulous lawyers and reasonable people, you would be correct. However, such is not the case. Baseless lawsuits are brought all the time. I am currently the object of one. Again, one still has the huge outlay of resources, and the mental turmoil of defending against groundless accusations, IN THE UNITED STATES, whereas in many other countries, this is much less of a problem.
You think it’s reasonable to try to avoid baseless lawsuits by violating the law and opening yourself up to real lawsuits. That’s the problem.
Except a lawsuit for unwanted pregnancy and abortion against Walgreens or Sav-On because the pharmacy would not sell emergency contraception is just as baseless as a lawsuit for a house burning down against Home Depot or OSH because they would not sell a fire extinguisher.
In case one did not notice, the time to have emergency whatevers (contraception, fire extinguishers, etc.) is before the emergency.
Your example needs a serious amount of work. This is more like the fire and rescue failing to save your house because you’re black.
Also, if Home Depot refused to sell someone an extinguisher because they were 17, that is a violation of civil rights.
How so? Nobody ever claimed, nor could credibly claim, that refusing to sell contraception is racial discrimination.
It’s a refusal to do something that is required by your job because you don’t like the customer or what the customer wants to do.
If you don’t like that example, how about, it’s more like a police officer deciding not to respond to a call of domestic abuse because women shouldn’t talk back to their husbands.
South v. Maryland, 9 U.S. (18 How.) 396 (1855)
And if the refusal is by the pharmacy owner?
South v. Maryland doesnt undermine my point.
If the owner is a pharmacist, then it’s just like any other pharmacist. If the owner is not a pharmacist, then the owner has shown he’s incompetent to run a pharmacy.
Because it’s “the law”, I’m supposed to obey it? If it is unconscionable? If it is constitutionally based, I will agree, because THAT is the law of the land. If it is a REGULATION that appears in the Federal Register, promulgated by unelected bureaucrats, then it has MUCH LESS weight of probity on its side. If it truly is a LAW, was passed by Congress (the 7% trust-earned group we learned about above), I STILL have my doubts. If it’s against my free exercise of religious freedom to deny abortifacients that will kill an unborn embryo (now THAT’s the discussion we REALLY ought to be having), then NO, I feel no such obligation to follow such a directive.
You’ve switched from worry about lawsuits to ideology and special pleading. You’re previous argument was a smokescreen for the real reason you have a problem with this. Why should anyone believe anything you write?
How would denying the drug result in pregnancy?
If my kitchen catches fire at 2 A.M. and I do not have a fire extinguisher, can I sue Home Depot if my house burns down because they did not open in time to sell me a fire extinguisher.
Nobody is complaining about the pharmacies not being 24 hours. It’s refusal to sell during business hours something that legally can’t be denied.
Why would that be more illegal than Home Depot denying fire extinguishers?
I didn’t claim that it was, though I would say that going a purchasing a fire extinguisher for a house that’s burning down isn’t going to solve the problem.
The same logic applies to emergency contraception.
No, actually, it doesn’t. Emergency contraception does stop fertilization.
Going out and buying a fire extinguisher isn’t going to stop your house from continuing to burn down.
Medically ignorant. “Emergency contraception does stop fertilization.” No, it attempts to stop successful IMPLANTATION of a fertilized egg. “Why should anyone believe anything you write?”
Not when it is taken before fertilization.
As Michael said, it stops both fertilization and implantation.
Anyway, even if I had been wrong, getting a detail wrong is much different than putting forth fake arguments.
And fire extinguishers can stop fires.
Uh huh. It’s the exact same thing.
Will the patient’s (17 year old’s) parents sue me for giving contraception without their (=parent’s) consent? The likely response is, “…yes, probably.”
Uh, no. Well, not for anyone rational it isn’t.
So, why take the risk? Why SHOULD they take the risk? Even if the law is on their side, even if they DID know the law, in the United States, they can be sued anyway, and have to spend huge money to defend themselves, or succumb to “greenmail.”
Well, by not following the law, they not only have the same risk of frivolous lawsuits, they also now risk real lawsuits and professional sanctions. You’re argument for why they should break the law is selfish, but letting that aside, it’s a subset of why they should follow the law.