Cold Comfort Pharmacy: Pharmacist Tort Liability for Conscientious Refusals to Dispense Emergency Contraception


The past several years have seen an increasing number of pharmacists refuse to dispense emergency contraception, an effective, post-coital form of contraception, on the grounds that the drug violates their personal beliefs. This Article addresses the impact of those pharmacist refusals under existing principles of tort law. The Article draws on existing pharmacy case law, state-specific refusal clauses, and ethics statements promulgated by professional pharmacy associations to investigate whether pharmacists have a legal duty to dispense emergency contraception, notwithstanding religious or ethical objections. Concluding that in most states, such a legal duty does exist, the Article develops a “wrongful conception” theory of tort liability for refusing pharmacists and argues that by refusing to dispense emergency contraception, pharmacists subject themselves and their employers to potential civil liability, including significant compensatory and punitive damages.


Consumer Protection Law | Food and Drug Law | Health Law and Policy | Law and Gender | Law and Society | Legal Remedies | Public Law and Legal Theory | State and Local Government Law | Torts

Date of this Version

February 2007