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The Pharmaceutical Journal
Vol 268 No 7185 p209-212
16 February 2002

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  Community pharmacy
  MMR vaccine
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  The Council

Letters to the Editor

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The Council

Free speech?

From Mr R. Blyth, FRPharmS

I have always subscribed to the statement, attributed to Voltaire, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it", which is why I was so concerned to read in Linda Stone's informative article (PJ, 5/12 January, p38) the warning to Council members that they are expected to support Council decisions in public. And if, exceptionally, they "cannot support the democratic process", then they must clearly state the Council position before giving their own personal point of view. The forbidding, or attempted forbidding, of the expression in public of personal opinions is to my mind the antithesis of democracy (or the "democratic process", whatever that may mean).

It may be one thing for a Cabinet minister to maintain silence upon his or her opposition to Government policies for they can resign as easily as they can be appointed. Other elected Members of parliament are free to speak. Whether they have the courage to do so is another matter.

A member of the Society's Council is similarly elected and his or her responsibility is to the electorate. A candidate has a duty when he or she seeks election to the Council to make an honest declaration of views and should continue to observe that duty after election.

Our Council spokesmen are adept at promising transparency. Facta, non verba (deeds, not words) is what we need. But then latin mottoes are not fashionable: even the Society's own motto Habenda ratio valetudinis (an excellent one for our profession since it encompasses concern for health) has been replace by the vainglorious "Helping pharmacists achieve excellence".

Robert Blyth
Milton Keynes,


LINDA STONE replies:

I applaud and support the desire for open democracy. Council members are elected democratically by the membership to govern the profession. Governing with governance carries responsibilities. That is why the Code of Conduct (for Council members) makes it clear that if a member of the Council wishes to disagree with a Council decision, he or she must first state the Council view. It is totally unacceptable for an individual member of the Council to ignore the fact that they are a member of the Council. They cannot simply decide to set aside their membership of the Council and behave as if they were just an ordinary member of the Society.


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