A woman who had just tragically suffered a miscarriage was unable to get the medically necessary drugs her doctor ordered for her because the pharmacist at her local Walmart refused to fill it.
About five weeks into her pregnancy, Brittany Cartrett was told by her doctor that the child hadn’t made it. To avoid serious health consequences that may come with a miscarriage, she was given two options: an invasive “dilation and curettage” procedure which would surgically remove the contents of the uterus, or a pill that would have the same effect but would be less invasive. She opted for the second option.
Unfortunately, getting the medicine in order to treat herself proved difficult because of a Walmart pharmacist’s refusal to help her. Cartrett recounted her infuriating incident with Georgia news station WGXA (emphasis added):
“So we made the decision to not do a D&C and to get a medicine. So he said I’m going to give you this medicine, you’ll take it, and it will help you to pass naturally so that you don’t have to go the more invasive route”, said Brittany Cartrett.
The doctor’s office called the Milledgeville Walmart to fill the prescription but they were told no and they were not given a reason.
“So we found another place to fill it but I still had to go up [to the Milledgeville Walmart] to get another prescription so when I went up there she asked if I had any questions about this prescription I said no I don’t but I do have a question about the other one. And she looks at my name and she says oh, well…I couldn’t think of a valid reason why you would need this prescription,” Cartrett said.
The unidentified Walmart pharmacist took it upon herself to refuse to fill the prescription that a doctor had told his patient she needed. Why would this employee do that?
The answer may have less to do with medicine and more to do with personal belief. The drug that Cartrett was told to take is Misoprostol, which is also used to induce abortions. The pharmacist appears to have taken issue with giving out the drug just in case Cartrett was going to use it for that purpose. And this incident doesn’t appear to be isolated. According to a social media post Cartrett made documenting her experience, other people have come forward offering similar stories.
Cartrett summed up her feelings by asking, “If it’s…due to the conscience clause I think it’s called, then what other decisions are they making based on our health and our needs by not giving a prescription to someone who may or may not need it?”
Oddly, Walmart seems more concerned about the rights of its pharmacists to selectively discriminate than it does on its customers having access to the medicine they may need. When WGXA spoke with another pharmacist at the same Walmart, the man, Sandip Patel, said he was “aware of the situation” but defended his co-worker by saying pharmacists are allowed to reject prescriptions at their own discretion. (Georgia is one of six states that have a “conscience clause” which allows pharmacists to not dispense medicine they personally or religiously object to.)
A Walmart spokesperson also defended the pharmacist, saying, “Our pharmacists fill prescriptions on a case by case basis every day in our stores throughout the country and we encourage them to exercise their professional judgment in doing so.”
Undoubtedly, the right to refuse to fill a prescription can be a good thing. It gives pharmacists the ability to make judgments about certain drug combinations that may harm their patients, for example. However, that flexibility is now being twisted to also allow pharmacists to not serve people medication that they don’t want people using. Unsurprisingly, this often means pro-life pharmacists stonewalling women from getting contraception, morning after pills, or other medication used to induce abortions.
It’s particularly troubling that this occurred at a Walmart, which is America’s largest retailer by a truly depressing scale. For many Americans, Walmart is the closet pharmacy they have. If its employees can actively get in the way of a doctor’s prescription and its intended patient, it could have huge implications for the healthcare of Americans, especially women.
Feature image via Random Retail/Flickr