A Michigan woman says that a pharmacist refused to fill her prescription for a drug that was medically necessary after she experienced a miscarriage.
Rachel Peterson of Ionia, Michigan was expecting a baby with her husband Rob, when she learned the child would not make it.
“Unfortunately, on June 29, I did not have any of the morning sickness or pregnancy symptoms, and unfortunately they did not detect a heartbeat on the ultrasound and the fetus was no longer viable,” Rachel, 35, told the Detroit Free-Press.
To help them deal with the crushing loss, the Petersons decided to take a vacation in upper Michigan. During their trip, Rachel’s doctor prescribed misoprostol, which is also sold under the brand name Cytotec, to complete her miscarriage and help with postpartum hemorrhage.
But when she called a pharmacist at a Meijer pharmacy in Petoskey, Michigan, he refused to fill the prescription for the drug, which can also be combined with another drug to induce abortions.
“The pharmacist called and said that he could not fill the prescription in good conscience because he was a Catholic male and he could not contribute to an abortion,” Rachel said.
“I decided to reveal to him that the fetus was no longer viable, and he said he didn’t believe me.”
Rachel tearfully recounted that she tried different ways to get her prescription filled, but he refused every option.
“Then I asked if there was someone else there who would be willing to fill the prescription, and he said no. I asked if there was someone I could speak to, a manager, and he said no, and I asked if I could get the prescription transferred, and he said no,” she said.
Michigan law does allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions on the basis of religion, but they must transfer the request to another pharmacist, or send it to another pharmacy to fill.
In a statement to PEOPLE, Meijer said that they cannot comment on this specific case due to health privacy laws, but that they follow the Michigan pharmacy guidelines, and a pharmacist who acted in this way would violate their policy.
“We have thoroughly investigated these allegations and while we cannot discuss this specific matter due to federal and state privacy laws that protect health information, we want all of our pharmacy customers to know of our practices regarding a pharmacists’ ability to refuse to fill a prescription. Our practice is based upon our overwhelming concern for patient safety and care, balanced with the need to accommodate the religious beliefs of our employees … A pharmacist who fails to follow this procedure, is in violation of our process.”
Meijer added that the pharmacist no longer works for the company.
“Meijer strives to treat its pharmacy customers with dignity and respect. The pharmacist identified by recent reports has not been employed by Meijer since early July 2018. While we cannot comment on any pharmacy customer matter, we apologize for any customer experience that does not align with our core values.”
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The Petersons ended up leaving their vacation immediately, and drove the three hours back home to Ionia, where another pharmacist filled Rachel’s prescription.
“Just because if she had gone maybe a day or two without it, she would’ve been in some real trouble,” Rob said.
Rachel said she’s sharing her experience in the hopes that it doesn’t happen to anyone else.
“Since I was grieving and devastated by the loss, our loss, and then for someone to say these things to me during this difficult time — I was confused and shocked and I just didn’t understand how someone could treat another person who was going through one of the most difficult times in their lives,” she said.
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