Pro­fes­sional phar­ma­cists are more than ca­pa­ble to pro­vide morn­ing-after pill - He­lena Dalli

● MEPs also dis­agree with pro­posal

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Ju­lian Bon­nici

Min­is­ter for Civil Lib­er­ties He­lena Dalli and Labour Whip God­frey Far­ru­gia are at odds over the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee’s unan­i­mous de­ci­sion that the morn­ing-after pill should be pre­scrip­tion-only drug.

At a meet­ing pre­sent­ing the Co­hab­i­ta­tion Bill, Dalli said that she had the ut­most faith in the ca­pa­bil­i­ties and pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the phar­ma­cists around the is­land to pro­vide women with the proper in­for­ma­tion about the risks and side ef­fects of the med­i­ca­tion, whilst also be­ing able to dis­cuss long-term con­tra­cep­tion meth­ods and sex­ual health with the pa­tient.

She also praised the re­spon­si­bil­ity of phar­ma­cists, point­ing to­wards a World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion di­rec­tive which obliges phar­ma­cists to give safe and pro­fes­sional ad­vice to any pa­tient on any prod­uct.

She also high­lighted that by plac­ing the re­spon­si­bil­ity squarely on doc­tors, the emer­gency con­tra­cep­tive would not be pro­vided to the pa­tient in time.

This runs con­trary to Dr Far­ru­gia’s state­ments in Par­lia­ment on Mon­day where he sug­gested that quality health care re­gard­ing the is­sue can only be guar­an­teed through

doc­tor-pa­tient con­sul­ta­tion. He also men­tioned that the pa­tient­doc­tor con­sul­ta­tion was also nec­es­sary to main­tain pub­lic health, since it would be eas­ier to “pre­vent and mon­i­tor sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­eases”.

Dr Far­ru­gia then went on to say that ac­ces­si­bil­ity was also an essential rea­son be­hind the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee’s de­ci­sion since the coun­try was able to pro­vide a 24/7 health care cen­tre ser­vice. He said that by­pass­ing doc­tors, EU coun­tries sac­ri­fice quality of health in favour of ac­ces­si­bil­ity.

There are cur­rently 23 EU mem­ber states which al­low phar­ma­cists to pro­vide the emer­gency con­tra­cep­tion. How­ever, there seem to be no records of women who have had se­ri­ous or lethal re­ac­tions to the med­i­ca­tion.

Speak­ing to Lov­inMalta, MEPs Roberta Met­sola and Miriam Dalli also dis­agreed with the pro­posal laid out by God­frey Far­ru­gia, with Miriam Dalli say­ing “To be hon­est, I can’t un­der­stand the logic of telling women that if they want the morn­ing-after pill they need to have a pre­scrip­tion from a doc­tor. I would have ex­pected this com­mit­tee to ei­ther say yes, you can have ac­cess to the morn­ing-after pill, or no. It’s a bit il­log­i­cal to me. I can’t un­der­stand the logic be­hind it”.

Dr Met­sola also agreed, say­ing that “I think we have fi­nally es­tab­lished that what we’re talk­ing about is con­tra­cep­tion which I would strongly believe has to be as widely ac­ces­si­ble as pos­si­ble. I think what none of us want is to set up this new cat­e­gory of moral­ity po­lice where politi­cians are try­ing to dic­tate to women what they can and what they can­not do.”

NGOs have their say

The ques­tion of ac­ces­si­bil­ity has been quickly dis­missed by Head of the Women’s Rights Foun­da­tion An­drea Dibben. She pointed out the long queues and waiting times that of­ten ac­com­pany a visit to a 24/7 health care cen­tre, whilst also say­ing that by al­low­ing phar­ma­cies to pro­vide the emer­gency con­tra­cep­tive over the counter would only in­crease ac­ces­si­bil­ity for ev­ery­one in so­ci­ety namely the vul­ner­a­ble who may find it too un­com­fort­able with dis­clos­ing so many per­sonal de­tails with a doc­tor.

These sen­ti­ments were echoed by Gen­der Equal­ity (who are or­gan­is­ing a protest on the is­sue this Sun­day in Repub­lic Street, Val­letta) who feel that the “un­nec­es­sary hur­dle of ob­tain­ing a pre­scrip­tion length­ens the process”, negates the term ‘emer­gency’ and proves “detri­men­tal to the em­pow­er­ment of Mal­tese women”.

Both NGOs have ex­pressed con­cerns re­gard­ing the de­ci­sion to al­low doc­tors to pre­scribe the con­tra­cep­tive through their own moral con­vic­tions since this would mean that peo­ple who are des­per­ate for the med­i­ca­tion would have to con­tinue go­ing around un­til a doc­tor pro­vides them with the con­tra­cep­tive ac­cord­ing to their con­science.

The right for a doc­tor to re­ject a pre­scrip­tion based on moral judge­ment also goes against the Euro­pean Court of Hu­man Rights, which has al­ready de­clared that a med­i­cal pro­fes­sional can­not con­sci­en­tiously ob­ject to dis­pens­ing a med­i­cal prod­uct.

Ms Dibben also dis­missed any links be­tween sex­ual health and the con­sump­tion of the morningafter pill. She pointed to sev­eral stud­ies con­ducted which dis­prove any cor­re­la­tion be­tween risky sex­ual be­hav­iour and the pill’s con­sump­tion.

This is why, she be­lieves, the Med­i­cal Author­ity has rec­om­mended that the emer­gency con­tra­cep­tion be pro­vided over the counter and there­fore with­out the need for pre­scrip­tion. The Med­i­cal Author­ity has re­mained in line with the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Euro­pean Medicine Author­ity, Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, WHO, and the United Na­tions.

The is­sues, ac­cord­ing to Ms Dibben, are “com­pletely sep­a­rate” and the is­sue of pub­lic health should be fo­cused on the ed­u­ca­tion and pro­mo­tion of long-term con­tra­cep­tive meth­ods in­stead of be­ing placed with this emer­gency con­tra­cep­tive.

Whilst the NGO which she forms part of did not or­gan­ise the protest on Sun­day, she urges all peo­ple who feel strongly about the cause to at­tend, and called for Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment such as He­lena Dalli (who have ex­pressed their views on the mat­ter) to at­tend and show sol­i­dar­ity with the demon­stra­tors.

How­ever, Min­is­ter Dalli has al­ready stated that she would not be at­tend­ing the protest on Sun­day since “it is not a cel­e­bra­tion of a right, but they are look­ing to put pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment, which I can­not do since I form part of it”.

Dr Dalli stressed that whilst she does not nec­es­sar­ily agree with the de­ci­sion made by the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee, she must re­spect it, and will look for­ward to a more pro­gres­sive out­come in Par­lia­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.