A Christian pharmacist in Germany who faced legal proceedings after refusing to sell the 'morning after pill' has had his freedom of conscience rights upheld.
In a landmark case, the court recognised his fundamental right to act in accordance with his conscience in regards to the sale of certain products.
The retired pharmacist was reported to the Berlin Pharmacists' Chamber for refusing to stock or sell the 'morning-after-pill', a drug which is used to prevent the implantation of an embryo in the uterus resulting in the death of an unborn child at his chemist.
The matter was then taken to the Professional Court at the Administrative Court of Berlin.
European law protects medical staff from participating in procedures which may violate their conscience under article 9 of the European Convention on Human rights.
However, the protection of pharmacists' conscience rights are less clear. As the matter has not been previously addressed by a German court, the decision of this case has great significance for the industry.
Christian legal group ADF International provided legal counsel to the pharmacist and has welcomed the decision.
On Thursday, ADF released the following statement:
"Nobody should be forced to choose between their conscience and their profession. The conscience rights of pharmacists are often, and sometimes deliberately, ill defined in national law. Nevertheless, the right to act in accordance with one's conscience is a fundamental right and pharmacists should be protected.
"Personal beliefs and conscience influence all areas of a person's life and are not simply laid down in a professional setting. This pharmacist in Berlin faced legal proceedings for choosing to act in line with his conscience. The court recognized that he did not violate the law and should not be forced to act against his personal convictions," said Felix Böllmann, Legal Counsel for ADF International.
The Chamber of Pharmacists has until 20th January to appeal the decision.