Health Care

Pharmacist Withholds Inhaler from Woman Having Asthma Attack

| by Kate Wharmby Seldman

A pharmacist at a New Jersey CVS drugstore told an asthmatic woman she couldn't have an inhaler -- even though she was lying on the floor suffering a serious asthma attack.

According to an article in the UK's Daily Mail, Katherine O'Connor had left her inhaler at home when she started having the attack. Her boyfriend, Jack Brown, rushed with her into a nearby CVS pharmacy to get a refill, which was all ready. The inhaler cost $21.50. However, Brown only had $20. "Well, there's nothing I can do," Brown says the pharmacist told him. Brown reportedly offered to leave his wallet and cell phone -- but the pharmacist wouldn't budge.

O'Connor had only the most basic health insurance plan: an ambulance ride to the nearest hospital would cost her around $1,500, but Brown was forced to call an ambulance nonetheless. Luckily, Brown remembered at the last minute that he had a friend who was a paramedic. The friend arrived with an inhaler before the ambulance showed up.

CVS's corporate offices later issued a statement, saying: "The well-being of our customers is our highest priority and we are looking into this matter."

It defies belief that a pharmacist standing in front of a till full of money couldn't loan a desperate woman $1.50. If the pharmacist didn't want to dip into CVS money, perhaps he or she could have lent or given his or her own money to O'Connor -- or maybe just given her the inhaler. Even if the pharmacist had been fired for this obviously selfless act, the lawsuit he or she could have filed against CVS would have been justified (and supported by a sympathetic public).

It speaks volumes about the state of American health care and the economy that a pharmacist -- someone whose career involves helping sick people receive treatment -- isn't willing to risk his or her job, even for someone who is clearly ill. What does it say about America when its citizens are now so scared to jeopardize their own well-being that they're no longer prepared to help each other?