Archive for July 27, 2007

Pharmacists Sue State Because State Tells Them To Do Their Damn Job

July 27, 2007

*Apologies in advance for the poor copyediting and generally rambling nature of this post.

Yes, this is about emergency contraception:

Pharmacists have sued Washington state over a new regulation that requires the sale of emergency contraception, also known as the “morning-after pill.”

In a lawsuit filed in federal court here, a pharmacy owner and two pharmacists say the rule that took effect Thursday coerces them into “choosing between their livelihoods and their deeply held religious and moral beliefs.”

The state ruled earlier this year that druggists who believe emergency contraceptives are tantamount to abortion can’t stand in the way of a patient’s right to the drugs.

I hold a pretty strong opinion on this one: The pharmacists in question need to have their licenses to practice removed. Now. If pharmacists want to retain control of their profession, there needs to be some attempt at self-policing to prevent shit like this. Otherwise, I suspect we’re going to see political activists put pressure on state and federal legislative bodies to craft stricter rules for pharmacists around dispensing medications, which will have the effect of taking medical decisions out of the hands of medical professionals. That, I suspect, is not something most pharmacists want to see, especially when the recent advent of the PhD in Pharmacy and the greater role pharmacists are playing in patient care.

Given that EC is just a really strong dose of birth control pills, I’m curious to know if the pharmacists in question are opposed to birth control as well. It’s possible – they are Roman Catholic, according to the story – but if they, I think it would come as a shock to many people who consider birth control a pretty uncontroversial thing.

At the bottom of the story was another bit that caught my eye:

Pharmacists are also forbidden to destroy prescriptions or harass patients, rules that were prompted by complaints from Washingtonians, chairwoman Rebecca Hille said.

I’d be curious to see the exact number and nature of complaints….though I will say that again, this is a case where the fact that a state regulatory body felt the need to intervene is something I consider a net loss for pharmacists. This is something that I think should be handled at the level of the pharmacists themselves, be it their professional association or whatever. It’s still in their best interests – as it is with most professions – to be able to self-regulate. The argument that these issues fall outside the purview of pharmacists since they are “ethical” or “moral” issues doesn’t hold water for me; however you classify them they involve pharmacists, patients, state or federal oversight, and the public’s view of pharmacists as trustworthy dispensers of medicine. And it only takes a few well-publicized cases to freak people out.

…it should be noted that the state regulation in question doesn’t force every pharmacist to dispense medication they are opposed to, just that someone in the pharmacy fill the prescription during the same visit. This strikes me as a very reasonable request that allows for personal beliefs to be respected without those beliefs spilling over onto others. However, if the reason the three people in question is upset is that they’re not being allowed to fuck with their patients, then forget them. And I do think that’s what is happening, based on this part of the new rules:

Pharmacies also are required to order new supplies of a drug if a patient asks for something that is not in stock.

This new regulation is only objectionable if the personal beliefs in question include not allowing women access to EC.


This, for the record, is why I’d like to see professional pharmacists do a better job of making clear what responsibilities are expected of pharmacists, and making decisions based on medical advice and not kooky personal beliefs is one of them.

In all fairness, given how much more knowledge your average Doctor of Pharmacy has about drugs and drug interactions than your average Medical Doctor, I can see a case in which the pharmacist has a better idea of what drug is appropriate to prescribe than an MD. In such a case, it would make sense to allow the pharmacist to override or change the doctor’s prescription, yes? The problem is that crap like this lawsuit undermines public trust in pharmacists to make those changes with the interest of the patient in mind (leading to increased regulation by the state), which obviously has a negative effect on their ability to do their job.

Thanks to David for the hour of coffee-fueled & heated conversation in a car at 7 a.m. that helped me develop this position.

Via Feministe.


Oscar, the Grim Reaper Who Licks Himself

July 27, 2007

I don’t really know what to say about this….it’s really creepy, yet it makes a strange sort of sense:

“He’s a cat with an uncanny instinct for death,” said David Dosa, assistant professor at the Brown University School of Medicine and a geriatric specialist. “He attends deaths. He’s pretty insistent on it.”

In the two years since Oscar was adopted into the dementia unit of the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre in Providence he has maintained close vigil over the deaths of more than 25 patients, nursing staff and doctors say.


Having Your Cake and Stuffing Your Face With It Too

July 27, 2007

I hate the slogan “support the troops.” I think it’s meaningless tripe designed to stifle criticism and debate, and that it has no logical, moral, or philosophical basis whatsoever. And that it really fucks with how we relate to those human beings that are actually serving in the military, especially in Iraq.

A couple of recent posts and an article in The New Republic which consisted of observations regarding Iraq from an anonymous soldier made me think about this a bit more, and as usually happens when I think, I get angry. From the TNR article:

One private, infamous as a joker and troublemaker, found the top part of a human skull, which was almost perfectly preserved. It even had chunks of hair, which were stiff and matted down with dirt. He squealed as he placed it on his head like a crown. It was a perfect fit. As he marched around with the skull on his head, people dropped shovels and sandbags, folding in half with laughter. No one thought to tell him to stop. No one was disgusted. Me included.

I know another private who really only enjoyed driving Bradley Fighting Vehicles because it gave him the opportunity to run things over. He took out curbs, concrete barriers, corners of buildings, stands in the market, and his favorite target: dogs. Occasionally, the brave ones would chase the Bradleys, barking at them like they bark at trash trucks in America–providing him with the perfect opportunity to suddenly swerve and catch a leg or a tail in the vehicle’s tracks. He kept a tally of his kills in a little green notebook that sat on the dashboard of the driver’s hatch. One particular day, he killed three dogs. He slowed the Bradley down to lure the first kill in, and, as the diesel engine grew quieter, the dog walked close enough for him to jerk the machine hard to the right and snag its leg under the tracks. The leg caught, and he dragged the dog for a little while, until it disengaged and lay twitching in the road. A roar of laughter broke out over the radio. Another notch for the book. The second kill was a straight shot: A dog that was lying in the street and bathing in the sun didn’t have enough time to get up and run away from the speeding Bradley. Its front half was completely severed from its rear, which was twitching wildly, and its head was still raised and smiling at the sun as if nothing had happened at all.

I didn’t see the third kill, but I heard about it over the radio. Everyone was laughing, nearly rolling with laughter. I approached the private after the mission and asked him about it.
“So, you killed a few dogs today,” I said skeptically.
“Hell yeah, I did. It’s like hunting in Iraq!” he said, shaking with laughter.
“Did you run over dogs before the war, back in Indiana?” I asked him.
“No,” he replied, and looked at me curiously. Almost as if the question itself was in poor taste.

War is hell; it messes with people. Badly. There are mountains of evidence supporting this claim, and there is no fucking evidence that anyone with any institutional clout, DEMOCRATS INCLUDED, are doing a damn thing about it (to say nothing of dealing with the same effects as they pertain to Iraqi civilians). You want a crime against humanity? Try this one, and it absolutely pales in comparison to what people who live in the Middle East are going through.

“Support the troops” doesn’t really speak to the fact that war is hell, does it? It doesn’t acknowledge the humanity under the helmet, and it sure as hell doesn’t allow for “the troops” to behave like those noted above.

So how does this ideologically warped concept stay “pure”?

Through massive enforcement and pressure from those interested in its maintenance, that’s how.

Digby makes a good point – as usual – about the backlash against the publication that printed this piece and the soldier who wrote it:

There has been precious little good writing about the actual gritty experiences of average soldiers in these wars. Everything has been so packaged and marketed from the top that it’s very difficult to get a sense of what it’s like over there. I have no idea if this piece is accurate, but regardless it didn’t seem to me to be an indictment of the military in general, merely a description of the kind of gallows humor and garden variety cruelty that would be likely to escalate in violent circumstances. And so far, there has been nothing substantial brought forward to doubt his story — the shrieking nitpicking of the 101st keyboarders notwithstanding.

It certainly should not have have garnered this vicious right wing attack from everyone from Bill Kristol to the lowliest denizens of the right blogosphere. They want to destroy this soldier for describing things that have been described in war reporting since Homer so they can worship “the troops” without having to admit that the whole endeavor is a bloody, horrible mess that only briefly, and rarely, offers opportunity for heroic battlefield courage (which, of course, it sometimes does as well.)

It appears that what’s truly important is maintaining the narrative surrounding “support the troops” rather than providing any meaningful acknowledgment of the clusterfuck that is Iraq. Which makes perfect sense, given the context. But it’s still repulsive, and I don’t think people who have those damned yellow flags on their vehicles are really thinking about this when they slap ’em on.

Or maybe they are, and they’re just being exploited for fucked-up political reasons. I could go either way on that one.

I just don’t want to be accused of not “supporting the troops” ever again. If “supporting the troops” means supporting the shit that Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp wrote about, then fuck that. If it means supporting human beings in their quest to remain human beings, then yeah, I think we’ve reached a starting point. Just don’t tell me that “supporting the troops” requires supporting immoral, barbaric behavior. That’s a dangerous place to be, especially on accident.

Les Media

July 27, 2007

If there’s one thing you understand about the political press, make it be this:

Here are the real rules:

(1) Liberals have the power of reason and justice on their side.

(2) That’s an unfair advantage.

(3) Therefore the game should have handicaps to make it more competitive. One of these handicaps is holding liberals to unfair, unattainable standards. Because…

(4) Politics is just a game with no real world consequences and it wouldn’t be as fun to play if everyone had to simply make up their mind based on the logic and arguments of both sides, since liberals would win pretty much every time.

We’re not racing F1 people, but MarioKart! Conservatives are lagging in the logic department, so of course they get the blue turtle shell. And another war gets started and another few hundred thousand people die needlessly, but hey, better than having a less competitive game, right?

As bizarre as this sounds, after paying attention the media and its detractors for six years straight, I really think this is how pundits and other elite political media figures view politics.

I guess when you are solidly upper-class, the reality of policy changes, which are the result of actual politics, are generally not as apparent to you. The result, of course, is coverage of that which seems inconsequential to the majority (John Edwards’ haircut) and the lack of real reporting on things that matter for the vast majority the population (Iraq, funding for social programs). Of course, this coverage reflects the interests and values of the people who are on the television.

That, and as Jason Jones put it on the Daily Show, “do you know how uncomfortable the Reporter-Politician Friendship Breakfast will be if I do that?”

Finally, I should note that I do not think liberals have justice on their side, or least they very rarely do (however, they do exhibit far more reason than anyone who justifies the behavior of the current Attorney General). This point/post isn’t meant to prop up liberals, but partly to point out how narrow televised political discourse is in the United States. One of the consequences of having the rules written as such is that not only do very few liberals get on television at all, but anyone to their “left” is considered persona non grata or flat-out crazy (this also reflects the values of the so-called pundit class). So in that sense the “game” really is between establishment liberals and conservatives anyone with a big mouth and batshit idea based on inequality, hate, and/or violence.