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Pharmacist banned from providing EHC for 'distressing' lecture

Fitness to practise Pharmacist Piotr Mikolaj Majchrowicz, registration number 2069549, has been banned from providing EHC for three years after telling a patient that it amounted to chemical abortion and she was "ending a life".

Former Boots pharmacist Piotr Mikolaj Majchrowicz, registration number 2069549, has been banned from providing emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) for three years after subjecting a patient to a "distressing" lecture on the ethics of the treatment.

Mr Majchrowicz told a patient that EHC amounted to a chemical abortion, she was "ending a life" and taking it would be "on her conscience", the General Pharmaceutical Council heard at a fitness-to-practise hearing on July 18.

The regulator accepted that Mr Majchrowicz had a previously unblemished career, but stressed that he had shown no remorse or insight into his actions. The GPhC imposed conditions on his registration for three years, banning Mr Majchrowicz from providing EHC and obligating him to notify prospective employers of the case.

The GPhC heard that Piotr Mikolaj Majchrowicz, registration number 2069549, told a patient that EHC amounted to a chemical abortion and taking it would be "on her conscience"

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In January 2012, a patient came into Boots where Mr Majchrowicz was working in Blyth, Northumberland, and requested EHC. Mr Majchrowicz took the patient into the consultation room to discuss the supply, but "kept on sighing" and seemed "very uncomfortable with the situation", the patient reported.

Mr Majchrowicz then told the patient that supplying the drug went against his religion because it amounted to a chemical abortion. When the patient contended that EHC was a prevention of pregnancy, Mr Majchrowicz allegedly said she was ending a life and that it would be "on her conscience".

Although Mr Majchrowicz agreed to supply the drug, the patient was too upset to take it at the time. She went home and "broke down in tears" when she told her fiancé of the events. "This was an awful incident and I was made to feel like I had done something rotten and horrible," she told the GPhC. The patient then rang Boots Customer Care to report the incident.

In his evidence to the GPhC, Mr Majchrowicz denied saying the act would be on her conscience. But he admitted telling the patient EHC was against his Catholic faith and amounted to a chemical abortion, which is "how the Pope would see it".

Mr Majchrowicz added that he had provided EHC in a similar way before but had received no complaints and contended that he had met professional standards.

The GPhC ruled Mr Majchrowicz's advice was "anything but impartial" and he had instead given "a distressing explanation of why his religion regarded EHC as morally wrong". The GPhC stressed that this went against its code of conduct, which requires pharmacists to respect cultural differences and ensure their views do not affect how they provide professional services.

The fitness-to-practise committee said Mr Majchrowicz should have referred the patient to another pharmacy if he felt unable to impartially provide EHC.

It found Mr Majchrowicz was "wholly unrepentant", which could give rise to a repeat of his serious misconduct. The GPhC ruled that imposing conditions on Mr Majchrowicz's registration would be the most effective sanction to control his practice.

 Read the full case here.

What do you make of the GPhC's ruling?

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Dilip Tailor, Community pharmacist

I do not see any punishment here , the gentleman does not want to supply EHC anyway so now they just gave him a written excuse not to. Whats the punishment or remorse . ?

david Knowles, Community pharmacist

David Knowles community pharmacist

david Knowles, Community pharmacist

I think a better way to handle this would be to make Levonelle a GSL medicine. If we have pharmacists who behave in this fashion then the profession cannot expect to have a pharamcy only category. Also I think Boots should not allow its employees to behave in this manner. Further I cannot grasp what the Pope's opinions have to do with the practice of pharmacy. Is he now licensed to practice any health profession?

Freelance Pharmacist, Academic pharmacist

Quite frankly this is a matter about beliefs. About creation etc. The GPhC has no right to dictate to pharmacists on what to do. It is a matter about personal professional judgement and the last time I checked pharmacists were classed as professionals. And a note to patients if one pharmacist refuses to provide ehc go to another one. It ain't rocket science for god sake.

Robert Levy, Locum pharmacist

Also, there has never been a problem for pharmacists with his beliefs (even though scientifically incorrect) to have the option of signposting the patient elsewhere. I am qualified in 4 different PCT areas and this option is mentioned in all protocols.

Robert Levy, Locum pharmacist

All people should be allowed to express their beliefs, IN THE APPROPRIATE SETTING. However, there is one question which does not seem to have been asked. WHY DID HE APPLY FOR THE TRAINING IN THE FIRST PLACE IF HIS BELIEFS ARE SO STRONG AND HE WAS PREPARED TO PUT HIS PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE IN JEOPARDY BY EXPRESSING THEM ? Robert L, Locum

DAVID MACRAE, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

Northern Ireland has taught me that all religious beliefs in society need to be respected and accommodated, But as pharmacists we have a duty of care to our patients first off, and EHC is legal in the UK. In my opinion Mr Majchrowicz was wrong to impose his religious beliefs on a vulnerable lady while carrying out his professional duties.
Perhaps the Responsible Pharmacist Regs could include a sign clearly displayed in the pharmacy and pharmacy window:- EHC service available or not, if not; direction to nearest pharmacy where it is, this might prevent a similar occurrence.

Reeyah H, Community pharmacist

Is it just me or are the cases presented to the GPhC getting more and more absurd?! ( and slightly comical may I add, esp the £12 cardigan!!)

The actual punishment handed out to this pharmacist is actually fantastic for him! Just what the pharmacist ordered.

Margaret Saul, Community pharmacist

yes more and more absurd esp £12 cardigans what next?

Chris Pillman, Community pharmacist

'Pharmacist Who Doesn't want to Offer EHC is Suspended from Providing EHC' A suspension from the register would have been more suitable, escpecially when there are stories of pharmacists being struck off for 'attempting to steal £12 ASDA cardigans'

Excuse me........? =/

Zeinab Varachia, Pre-reg Pharmacist

I think what Mr Majchrowicz did was totally unprofessional. If he has an unblemished record he should be able to act responsibly and with clear judgement for the benefit of the patient. It doesn't make sense to me how he simply can no longer provide the EHC service when another pharmacist was struck off for 'attempted' theft of a cardigan from a supermarket. She also had an unblemished record and at least no patients were harmed and there were no question marks about her professional capabilities. Just saying..

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Being responsible can be difficult when a religion brain washes you to have specific behaviours to certain triggers such as anything connected to sex is sinful. Unhealthy conditioning!

Vincent Woods, Community pharmacist

You have obviously got an issue with catholics but being from Belfast I know that protestanrs also killed catholics and it wasnt about religion - that was an excuse. I do not provide EHC but I have all options available to the patient to assist them get the treatment as soon as possible from elsewhere and I have never had a complaint. All this has taken away from the argument that this pharmacist 'pushed' his beliefs onto a patient and judged. We should not do this no matter our beliefs - just as critising religion just because you dont practice is also wrong.

Marc Brooks, Community pharmacist

If we are allowed to have our own beliefs.. then mine is that it is a cop out for pharmacists to pick and choose which parts of a pharmaceutical service to provide. I assume the pharmacists supporting this man still provide EHC via a FP10?
Anyway that is just my personal opinion and i respect this mans beliefs on the matter and others alike. However, he should never have got himself accredited to supply EHC and politely signposted the lady to an alternative site which could provide the service. Whether the contractor wants to employ a particular pharmacist in this situation is then up to them.
The issue here is with his abhorrent judgemental attitude which has brought shame on the profession

srichitra rao, Community pharmacist

So he is banned from selling EHC and that means nothing really to him as he didn't want to do so in the first place, is he going to get on his soap box every time a contraceptive prescription is presented?? Because technically that is for the same purpose! This punishment for him makes no sense what so ever especially given the striking off of yhe pharmacist for filling in back of forms on behalf of his patients and the asda incident. This is not fraud but much much worse as in terms of ethics goes against everything we stand for as profession. He shouldn't be fit to have his name on the register that's what fitnees to practise should be about!

Dorothy Drury, Locum pharmacist

The GPhC were warned about this so was bound to happen.

Margaret Saul, Community pharmacist

just to confirm personally I have no problem providing the ehc service professionally and personally ..There is too much 'blame' and 'attack' in society today-has anyone thought to try to talk and help Mr M AND discuss his actions and why he behaved and said as he did ,as he surely knew the ethics and rules of ehc supply -there are far worse crimes happening in the world of pharmacy today?

Margaret Saul, Community pharmacist

and can one ever hope to stay in employment if one doesnot wish to supply ehc these days for whatever reason?

Tomasz Haduch, Community pharmacist

Mr Majchrowicz did a good job.

Darren Lewis, Community pharmacist

Really? If he didn't want to supply EHC due to whatever beliefs then why not signpost to someone who can.

What part of this whole affair constitutes 'a good job'? He should have been struck off for six months and given the opportunity to read the Code of Ethics and maybe Essential Service 5 - signposting, which is what he should have done in the first place

Calum Nelson, Locum pharmacist

This is such a ridiculous sanction. He doesnt want to supply EHC, so a ban achieves nothing. Not only is EHC not an abortion (it only prevents ovulation and therefore has no effect on an already fertilised egg, hence the 72hr time limit) meaning his clinical knowledge is lacking, but he also totally humiliated a patient at a particularly sensitive time. I'd trust a pharmacist who falsified MURs because of intense stress and pressure over one that humiliates women for trying to exercise control over their own bodies.

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Religion causes wars, bigotry, fundamentalism, judgmental behaviour, sexism, misogyny and homophobia. Please count me out.....complete bonkers!

Super Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

People cause wars, bigotry & everything else you mentioned. They wrongly use religion as a tool to dress it up their actions with & justify them. Then again, I don't really expect you to understand that!

Mehwish Tariq, Community pharmacist

Just as a professional you should respect a patient whatever their beliefs are and put their health and safety and choice first, you cannot go to the other end of the spectrum and disrespect people for following religion, this makes you guilty of the same thing!! It's about being neutral-minded.

ruth dales, Community pharmacist

I would have just politely sign posted her elsewhere and made sure i gave phone numbers of pharmacies or other services she could attend in a timely fashion. I don't supply OTC for the same reasons he gave. However, if the patient then challenged me as to why i was referring elsewhere and wanted to know what my beliefs were would i not be allowed to tell them? Respect of beliefs works both ways surely? I would never ever judge or make someone feel bad about a decision, but surely if they then insist on my telling them my beliefs it would be wrong not to give them a factual, non judgmental account of them? I hope the GPhC would be ok with that otherwise it feels like you have to be ashamed of your beliefs for fear of being ousted - like some sort of witch hunt.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Respectfully, I believe the key difference is the method of communication there. Telling someone in a vunerable state that they are, how he puts it - "ending a life and that it would be on her conscience" is different to simply saying "It is against my beliefs."

I am not condoning him for believing in religion and adhering to it's regulations, I'm condoning him for his total lack of empathy, insight into his actions, and any sort of remorse if this article is to be taken as it is.

ruth dales, Community pharmacist

If you read so of the comments on here its clear that there are people who have a general hate of religion and are using this incident as an excuse to condemn all those with a religion, rather than the condemning the actions of one person. In no other health care profession is having a religion looked on so negatively. My brother is a Doctor and is not condemned for opting out of things he feels unable to do. Yet in these comments i read some very hateful generalisations that, as you rightly say ,are not relevant to the particular incident described above - which was an issue with how he communicated and caused distress to a patient. All professions, from healthcare to police to politicians, teachers, lawyers etc should be representative of the public we serve, and in the UK, thankfully we celebrate all belief systems and our professional groups should reflect this.

ruth dales, Community pharmacist

If you read some of the other posts there are clearly some people out there who have an issue with religion and are using this as an excuse to condemn those with a belief system different to their own, rather than condemn the way this one guy acted.

Pro Re Nata, Community pharmacist

All HCPs should be atheists when considering a treatment for a pt and that chap needs to swat up on the pharmacology and mode of action of the MAP. Silly boy.

Sylvia S, Community pharmacist

mode of action :it may cause endometrial changes that discourage implantation of an egg or the zygote (egg+ sperm) so if we are talking preventing implantation of a zygote or an embryo( in catholic point of view both are regarded as a new life already) it is considered an abortion of the new life in catholic faith


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