Christians in Pharmacy Newsletter - October 2015
In our latest newsletter we report back on our meeting in London in October:
The meeting was attended by 11 people, including two medical students who attended the lecture only. Attendees covered a wide range of career backgrounds (MHRA, hospital pharmacy, pharmaceutical industry, academia, community/hospital locum and pharmacy students) and ages. Of these attendees, several were new attendees to any CiP meeting and the non-committee members were different individuals from those who had attended the previous meeting in March. Several apologies were received, including from two attendees from the previous meeting.
Following a welcome and opening prayer the day started with a thought provoking presentation from Dr Andrew Fergusson (Chair of the Advisory Group of the “Care Not Killing” alliance) entitled ‘Assisted Suicide and the Christian Healthcare Professional’. The major points of the talk are summarised in the attached paper. Andrew illustrated these points with examples and stories of his many interactions with patients and those on both sides of the argument. He also gave very persuasive responses to the main arguments propounded by supporters of assisted dying/euthanasia. Of particular note were:
Andrew’s lecture was followed by a presentation on the AS conscience clause led by Chik Kaw Tan. He reported that RPSGB’s official position is that:
The need to be careful to use the correct language rather than euphemisms and to challenge inappropriate use of language by those in favour of this policy
That orally administered lethal drugs fail completely or lead to an unpleasant death in approximately 20% of cases
That there is good evidence that in many cases there is an underlying cause behind the request for assisted suicide (AS) – when this is dealt with, more often than not the request goes away
There is some emerging evidence that students will be deterred from entering healthcare professions if they feel that they will be obliged to be involved in this practice
Beware opinion polls – the result very much depends on the question that is asked and the context in which it is asked
Despite what opponents say the ‘slippery slope’ argument is very real as shown by the Dutch and Belgian experience
These two presentations led to lively discussion which was wide ranging. Several stories were shared to illustrate particular points some of which are also available on the Care Not Killing website (www.carenotkilling.org.uk) Some points of particular relevance to this group were that it would be unwise to rely on a conscience clause for two main reasons:
It neither supports nor opposes AS
It is lobbying that a conscience clause must be contained within any legislation
It will lobby for individual pharmacist freedom of choice with an opt-in system. If pharmacists opt in they should be given training. There should be no requirement for those who do not wish to be involved to ‘signpost’ to other pharmacies/pharmacists that will provide this ‘service’. (This is in stark contrast with the case for EHC and may be hard to defend.)
We need to continue to build the group so that we have a louder voice on such matters.
Societal pressure (or possibly special interest pressure) is heading towards intolerance for the concept of conscience clauses per se. If this succeeds the argument will be, “If you don’t want to do this, don’t be a pharmacist/ doctor/ nurse”. The very existence of this argument could lead to Christians being dissuaded from entering these professions to their detriment
Agitating for a conscience clause at this stage in the debate could be seen as a tacit admission of having lost the substantive argument. Andrew encouraged us to continue to pray and lobby to make such a provision unnecessary
The lively morning session was followed by a good time networking over lunch:
For the afternoon we turned to the ’business’ part of the meeting where various CiP matters were discussed. Simon chaired the session and invited input on a number of themes:
1. Website – attendees shared their current usage of the website and ideas for improvement were discussed. The main conclusions were:
The website is useful but not currently visited that often
Facebook should be the main portal to CiP but this should link to the website for access to more in-depth content
The addition of the Twitter feed to the website is a good idea as it keeps the content fresh
Clear support for adding resources to the website. The list Chik Kaw has prepared was considered to be a good basis for the resource library. Additional suggestions were ‘Testimonies of how to live faith in the work place’ ‘Apologetics – why is there a need for God in the workplace?’
Agreement that it would be a good idea to link to relevant existing articles. Any suggestions of good content should be emailed to Chik Kaw and Nicola.
2. Networking - the conclusions were:
Prayer buddy system had come across as crisis support only, not a regular channel of keeping in touch – may need to resend with different wording
Need to consider how best to use social media. Agreed that Facebook could be key (and that LinkedIn was probably not a suitable means for this) especially if we can post not just text but videos, pictures and links to articles. The current younger generation is very visual and favours memes
Current level of email traffic from CiP was considered to be about right. Updates and newsletters are appreciated.
Simon encouraged us to each consider how we as individuals can connect with more people. Growth is likely to be relational
3. Meetings - it was agreed that:
Meeting every 6 months is about right. The next one should be in February 2016. Possible topics are global pharmacy ethics, contraception, stem cell derived therapies Best venue is probably London (although there was a suggestion that we might consider Birmingham)
We should consider electronic means of sharing highlights of meetings we have, e.g make a podcast of the talk available, post content to YouTube (with Twitter and Facebook links)
'Small' meetings have the benefit of building critical mass to support a larger conference – perhaps as soon as autumn 2016. We should undertake a Facebook poll to gauge interest
4. Finance - David reported our current financial position (we have £90, sufficient for our running costs until 1Q2016). It was agreed that we should mail a request for donations in the spring (March/April to avoid the Christmas rush). David to propose a form of words. Current costs include: TWUK admin support, website costs, financial support for students to attend meetings.
5. Prayer - Simon reminded us that it is only God who can ‘give the increase’ .The prayer points email was much appreciated and we should continue to provide it on a regular basis with Facebook as a channel for ‘emergency’ prayer requests.
6. Other discussion points:
We should consider how to link with pharmacy/pharmaceutical sciences students. Options include via academics at Pharmacy Schools or via University Chaplains. Recent students could also provide an intro. It was felt that CUs may not be the optimum route due to their more general nature; it would require people from the leadership team to provide a live input.
The name Christians in Pharmacy may need some further thought.
The day concluded with a time of prayer which involved all those present.
The leadership team will continue to meet on a regular basis to develop the organisation. We are currently focussing on the suggestions above
Please keep us in your prayers and contribute your own thoughts and ideas by email, Facebook or Twitter
Please keep current events which affect our profession, in your prayers and use CiP as a place to discuss the implications of these
End of Life Issues – Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide
What do the words mean?
Euthanasia is the intentional killing by act or omission of a person whose life is felt not be worth living (HOPE 1992). Voluntary euthanasia (VE) – the patient requests it; Non-voluntary euthanasia (NVE) – the life of an incompetent patient is ended; involuntary euthanasia (IVE) – the life of a competent patient is ended without their request
In euthanasia, a doctor administers a lethal injection. In physician assisted suicide (PAS) a doctor prescribes lethal medication which the patient him/herself consumes. The two are not significantly different ethically – ‘assisted suicide is euthanasia one step back’. Assisted dying is a disingenuous euphemism, variously defined but includes both.
What does UK law say?
Both are illegal. Euthanasia is treated as murder (Murder Act 1965) with mandatory life imprisonment on conviction. AS falls under the 1961 Suicide Act (amended 2009) with up to 14 years’ imprisonment on conviction
What about other jurisdictions?
Illegal everywhere except in Netherlands (VE + PAS); Belgium (VE + ?AS); Luxembourg (VE + PAS); Switzerland (AS); Oregon (PAS); Washington (PAS); Vermont (PAS) and ? Montana (PAS). But real threats in Australia, Canada, France, USA
What does the Bible say?
Image of God – see Genesis 9:5-6
6th Commandment – Exodus 20:13
A warfare scenario – Judges 9:50-55
Death of Saul – compare 1 Samuel 31:3-5 and 1 Chronicles 10:3-5 with 2 Samuel 1:5-16
The ‘Golden Rule’ (Matthew 7:12) is the only text often cited in favour
At the very least, nowhere does the Bible support euthanasia. Suicide is viewed negatively
What are the arguments for and against?
Autonomy: we want it. But:
Affects the autonomy of family, carers, doctor, nurses
Behind most requests, lies the real question…deal with that and the request goes away
There are some deliberated requests: why can’t they be allowed VE or AS?
Tolerating VE leads to NVE and IVE (Dutch and Belgian studies)
Compassion: we need it
Stands or falls on the answer to the question: Do we have to kill the patient to kill the symptoms? Hospice/palliative care has answered that ‘No’
Public policy: we can control it
Dutch and Belgian experience proves we cannot. When we change law, three things happen: we do what the new law says; we go further; and we change the climate of public opinion, desensitising conscience
Where are we now?
Media pressure; cases of Nicklinson/Lamb and Martin – awaiting Supreme Court judgment; Dignity in Dying PAS Bill in Lords next session?; Margo MacDonald relaunch in Scotland
Dr Andrew Fergusson, Chairman of the Advisory Group of the Care Not Killing Alliance
Care Not Killing www.carenotkilling.org.uk Christian Medical Fellowship www.cmf.org.uk