Pharmacy cuts ties with chemist after he placed anti-contraceptive note in customers’ pill packets

The Soul Pattinson pharmacy chain has been forced to cut ties with a Catholic chemist who was revealed last week to have been slipping notes into customers’ contraceptive pill boxes expressing his opposition to their use.

Simon Horsfall was a chemist at the Soul Pattinson pharmacy in Thurgoona, NSW, until Thursday last week, when it was decided he would no longer work there following a raft of criticism online.

Horsfall has admitted to slipping notes expressing his views against contraception into pill packets for the past 12 years.

The note reads: “The owners of the Thurgoona Soul Pattinson Chemist, Simon and Kathleen Horsfall, accept the official teaching of the Catholic Church against the use of artificial contraception. For this reason they conscientiously object to the sale and support of artificial contraception,” the note reads.

“If your primary reason for taking this medicine is contraceptive then it would be appreciated, that in the future, you could respect our views and have your OCP prescriptions filled elsewhere.”

Horsfall has received a mixed response from the local community for years, since the issue was first reported in 2005 by The Border Mail.

“It’s about integrity – if you say one thing and do something else, that is hypocrisy,” he was quoted as saying by The Border Mail.

“We practise what we preach.”

Horsfall has been in the pharmacy industry for around 20 years and the Thurgoona Soul Pattinson pharmacy is the only one in the suburb, although it is one of several chemists around Albury-Wodonga.

After a social media storm erupted last week when one customer posted a photo of the note to Facebook, Soul Pattinson made the decision to sever ties with Horsfall.

“Customers should not assume that Soul Pattinson supports these comments. We respect that the use of contraceptive products is a matter of personal choice,” Soul Pattinson said in its statement on its Facebook page.

“The pharmacist has acknowledged the likelihood that some people may assume that the views expressed are reflective of Soul Pattinson’s position on this issue. Consequently it has been agreed that he will no longer be associated with the Soul Pattinson brand.”

This decision by Soul Pattinson on Thursday sparked a second wave of criticism on social media, with some believing the decision of the chain was too hasty.

Horsfall told brand had given him an ultimatum to either change his practices or rebrand.

“I’ve already been in contact with a different branding group – I will probably go with a group that assists independent pharmacies,” Horsfall was quoted as saying.

The national president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, Grant Kardachi, said in a statement a pharmacist has the right to decline provision of care based on conscientious objection.

“However, the Code of Ethics stipulates that this right should not prevent the consumer from accessing healthcare that they are entitled to,” Kardachi says.

“Therefore in these circumstances the pharmacist should inform the consumer of the objection and appropriately facilitate continuity of care for the consumer.”

The manager of digital research and analysis with social media intelligence and advisory firm SR7, Anthony Mason, told SmartCompany previously how a brand responds to a social media backlash is often a second source of criticism.

“When it comes to businesses operating on social media, they need to be aware that social media is a highly politicised and issues-rich space and to be adequately prepared to address this, with a crisis plan, should a company become a target of online criticism of this sort,” he says.

“Social media has allowed like-minded individuals to form online communities to easily communicate issues, marshal support and mount scathing grassroots campaigns. Social media presents the opportunity to make better of a negative issue, but all too often it is used to make matters worse.”


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