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Last Updated: Monday, 4 July, 2005, 18:28 GMT 19:28 UK
Pharmacist refuses birth control
Sarah Sutton
Sarah Sutton is expecting after being denied a morning-after pill
A couple whose contraception failed are expecting their first child after a pharmacist refused to sell them the morning-after pill.

Sarah Sutton and her partner Andy, from Pontprennau in Cardiff, went to buy emergency contraception from their local Asda store in February.

But the on-duty pharmacist refused to sell it because of her "high morals".

The couple are said to be delighted to be expecting a baby but are angry about the way they were treated.

Mrs Sutton told the BBC Wales' X-Ray programme how she was stunned to discover that individual pharmacists had the right not to dispense medicines because of personal convictions or moral beliefs.

The couple had been celebrating a romantic Valentine's Day in their new home but were forced to seek help after their contraception failed.

She said she had 'high morals' and that's why she wouldn't sell me the pill
Sarah Sutton, who is now expecting her first child

However, when they went to the Asda pharmacy just before closing time to buy emergency contraception, they were told by an assistant that the on-duty pharmacist would not sell it to her.

"The assistant dealt with me, and she said the pharmacist on duty that evening wouldn't sell me the contraceptive pill," said Mrs Sutton.

Under the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's Code of Ethics and Standards which all pharmacists are expected to follow, a pharmacist is allowed to refuse to sell or dispense drugs because of their religious beliefs or personal convictions.

Mrs Sutton said she was stunned by the decision.

"I didn't really understand the reasons why but there was nothing else I could do about it.

"The pharmacist was at the back of the area and didn't come forward at all.

"I asked to speak to the pharmacist but the pharmacist wouldn't speak to me, so I asked then for the pharmacist to write down the reason why she wouldn't sell me the medication, and also I'd quite like her name so that if I wanted to write a letter of complaint I could.

"But the pharmacist wouldn't do that for me."

Sarah and Andy Sutton
The couple are angry at the way they were treated by the pharmacist

The pharmacists' Code of Ethics says that if a pharmacist does refuse to provide a service, they must not condemn or criticise a patient and they must advise a patient of alternative sources for the service.

It also states that requests for emergency contraception must be handled sensitively with due regard to the patient's right to privacy.

But Mrs Sutton said that she was not offered any privacy.

She said that the pharmacist "did sort of look in my direction and mumble across to me that she had high morals and that's why she wouldn't sell me the pill.

"I took that as an implication that I didn't have high morals. It was really rude."

She was told that she could try to obtain the pill at other pharmacies.


She took emergency contraception the following morning but it failed and the couple are now planning the birth of their child in November.

"We're in a fortunate position, we're financially and emotionally secure," she said.

"I'm concerned that this could happen to people who are not in the same position."

Asda has apologised to Mrs Sutton and has acknowledged they could have handled her request better.

The firm said the pharmacist did follow the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's Code of Ethics but added it was not done in a way the company was entirely happy with.

A spokesman said private consultation areas are being established in all their stores, with work being completed by the end of the year.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has said they will investigate any complaint Mrs Sutton may make.

X-Ray is screened on BBC1 Wales on Monday at 2240 BST.

Doubts about morning-after plan
03 Dec 04 |  Scotland



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