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Saturday, 30 April 2011

Why not sell chocolate instead?

A pharmacist points out the inconsistency of promoting healthy living in every area of life except sexual behaviour.

RoseMary Baker, a pharmacist from Wirral, Merseyside, has written a good piece for PJ Online, the internet version of the Pharmaceutical Journal, a publication of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. She points out that pharmacists do not sell chocolate or tobacco, they try to encourage their customers to adopt a healthy lifestyle, and warn about the consequences of smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise. Then she says:
But what about sex? Well now, that is different. Oh yes, we do display leaflets on how to have safe sex or where to go if you need an abortion. In Wales we can provide post-coital contraceptives free of charge without the necessity of obtaining a prescription from a doctor. Are we being as fair to the public about sex as we are about smoking or eating sweets or drinking alcohol? Do we highlight the failure rate of contraceptives or do we couch the true failure rate in terms like “if used effectively”. Do we shout from the rooftops the fact that many progesterone only pills are likely to fail if the dose is more than three hours late? Have we fought for a Government health warning on condoms which says “this product is likely to fail if you have never used a condom before and you are fumbling around in the dark at the back of the youth club”? Do we help to punch home the truth that sexually transmitted infections really are transmitted sexually, are highly unpleasant and often lead to infertility later in life?
Excuse a light-hearted anecdote, but this does remind me of a debate in the Junior Common Room at Corpus Christi College, Oxford back in 1977 or 1978. The motion before the House was "That a machine should be installed in the Plummer for the purveyance of contraceptives." (The "Plummer" was the public washroom area.) Finals student Paul Haffner (now a priest and an established theologian in Rome) supported by myself, a number of other Catholics, and some good Anglicans, stood up to propose the amendment: "That the word 'contraceptives' should be replaced by the word 'chocolate'." Sadly we lost but the wit was appreciated by our opponents.

Actually, I discovered a few years ago that chocolate is better at suppressing a tickly cough than most patent cough medicines so there is in fact a good reason for pharmacists to stock this relatively harmless item in place of cough mixture, never mind hormonal abortifacients.

On that matter (and indeed getting back to the point) in her article, RoseMary Baker also asks the pertinent question,
Why are we as a profession going along with the lie that postcoital contraception is not abortifacient?
She concludes the article:
The teenage pregnancy statistics for the UK are terrifying. What are we as a profession doing about it? We just find ways of making the morning after pill ever more widely available instead of spreading the word that sex, far more than chocolate and alcohol, needs to be treated with restraint and respect.
See the full article: More sex please! We’re pharmacists

H/T Caritas in Veritate
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