Transgender ban at Vancouver women-only pharmacy may violate profession's code of ethics
A spokesperson for the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia has said that she doesn’t think the code of ethics governing pharmacists permits a pharmacy to deny its services to transgender people.
But Lori DeCou, director of communications for the college, which licenses and regulates the profession in the province, told the Georgia Straight that the only way to know for sure is for someone to submit a complaint.
“If you know of someone that has been told that they would not be treated because of something to do with their gender, they need to lodge a complaint with the college, and we would certainly pursue that complaint,” DeCou said by phone today (July 10).
On July 7, the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective opened Lu’s: A Pharmacy for Women (29 West Hastings Street) in the Downtown Eastside.
Caryn Duncan, the collective’s executive director, told the Straight on July 8 that the pharmacy’s services are available to “women born women”. She said the pharmacy does not have the expertise or capacity to serve transgender women.
Transgender rights activists, including Jamie Lee Hamilton and Beth Marston, have criticized the collective’s policy. They plan to protest at the pharmacy tomorrow morning (July 11).
Marston told the Straight by phone today that it’s discriminatory for a business to be “denying people access to health care on the basis of their gender identity”.
DeCou said the college hasn’t received any complaints that she is aware of regarding the new pharmacy.
The pharmacists’ code of ethics, available on the college’s Web site, states: “A pharmacist’s commitment to the patient’s care must be sensitive to, but not prejudiced by, factors such as the patient’s race, religion, ethnic origin, social or marital status, gender, sexual orientation, age, or health status.”
Asked if the code of ethics would allow a women-only pharmacy to discriminate against transgender people, DeCou replied, “I don’t believe so. But I don’t know what it is that they’re doing, right? So, if they’re refusing to give treatment because of something to do with someone’s sexuality or their gender, then is that unethical behaviour? Potentially yes. And if we had a complaint to the college that said this is what XYZ pharmacy or someone was doing, then we would act on that. And one of things that we would certainly look at would be our code.”
According to DeCou, a complaint must be filed in order for the college to interpret the code of ethics. She said that complaints must be submitted in writing, and a specific procedure must followed.
The college’s Web site tells people interested in submitting a complaint to contact its complaints-resolution department at 604-733-2440.
“If someone has come to you with a story and said, ”˜This is what’s happened to me,’ get them to tell that story to the people who can do something about it—if in fact that’s inappropriate behaviour—and that’s the regulatory college, which is ourselves,” DeCou said. “So, that’s very nice that they come to the media. That’s wonderful. But they need to go through the channel to come to us for us to act against something.”
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