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Monday, February 05, 2007

A bitter pill

Apparently, there are plans afoot to make the contraceptive pill available to women in pharmacies, instead of at medical surgeries.

About bloody time.

Certain doctors and medical professionals have (not unreasonably, I suppose) voiced their objection to this plan, claiming that the practice will increase the risks to women’s health.

“Patients can't be on drugs that their doctors don't know about, and the pharmacist would have to know about someone's history of thrombosis and high blood pressure before they prescribe the pill”, said Dr Nigel Sparrow, of the Royal College of GPs.

A fine point, Dr Sparrow, in principle.

However, it does rather miss a really quite fundamental problem with the status of women’s reproductive health within the medical profession and society in general: the raw and often unpalatable truth is that women’s health is not treated with the respect that it – along with all other medical concerns – deserves.

The worry about pharmacists doling out the pill to women without taking the time to check their medical history would be a valid one if…erm….DOCTORS bothered to check such things when they distribute the pill.

Go on, ask the nearest woman: when she went on the pill, did her doctor ask her a long series of questions about her general health, and present her with a list of options? Did s/he list the pros and cons of each product and explain how they worked in detail so she would understand the hormonal changes soon to be wrought in her body?
Or did s/he hand her three months’ worth of Microgynon and turn back to the computer screen?

Yeah, thought so.

In the personal oral contraceptive history of what I suspect would be the MAJORITY of childbearing-aged women, I bet that virtually none will be able to recall a time in which a doctor took time to discuss their individual medical history, their own individual health risks, or indeed their individual preferences when prescribing the pill. In the world of female reproduction, ‘preference’ isn’t a word you hear terribly often.
Remember ladies: you should be grateful.

This is true of the prescribing of contraception, and this is true of the prescribing of the morning after pill (in which, personally, if it’s a choice between enduring the pointlessly disapproving sideways glances of a newly qualified GP or the utter indifference of a Superdrug sales assistant, I’ll take the chemist every time, thanks).
And don’t even get me started on the treatment of women requiring abortions – suffice to say that women might well have the right to choose, but we sure as fuck don’t have the right to choose and not be judged on it.

We live in a world in which overworked doctors often don’t bother reading through the medical notes of people upon whom they’re about to perform major surgery. In this kind of medical landscape, unfortunately, the handing out of contraceptives (or indeed the morning after pill or Chlamydia medicine) is probably BEST done by pharmacists.
Sure, they might give you a pill that doesn’t agree with you, but they’re no more or less likely to do that than a doctor.

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