Many people face fatal allergic reactions every day. One young girl faced such a reaction but might have been saved if a pharmacist had not refused to give her an EpiPen because she did not have a prescription.

Fox news sheds light on this tragic story. 

“A teenage girl died on the street after a pharmacy refused to hand over a life-saving adrenaline injection to the girl's mother because she didn't have a prescription,” according to Fox.

The girl was only fourteen years old. Fox reports, “She suffered an allergic reaction to peanuts after mistaking satay sauce for curry sauce at a Chinese restaurant in Dublin Ireland.

She told her mother, Caroline, she was having difficulty breathing. 
The family rushed round the corner to a pharmacy but a male worker told Caroline they couldn’t give her an EpiPen shot - a special allergy injection - without a prescription. The worker advised Sloan to take her daughter to a hospital but Emma collapsed on the street outside.”

Even though a physician happened to be passing by at the time the young girl collapsed he was unsuccessful in helping her.

“A passing doctor, as well as ambulance staff and firefighters, tried to resuscitate her but it was too late. The teenager died in front of her two sisters, one of them just 2 years old. The girl’s mother issued a statement to the press saying, ‘My daughter died on a street corner with a crowd around her. I'm so angry I was not given the EpiPen to inject her. I was told to bring Emma to an (emergency) department. Emma was allergic to nuts and was very careful. How could a peanut kill my child?” according to Fox.  The young girl’s family is outraged and planning to fight the pharmacy for not providing an EpiPen.


Should the pharmacist have handed over an EpiPen to mom?

What if the girl wasn't suffering an allergic reaction and was something different? Would giving her epinephrine have made her condition worse? What if the dosage was insufficient and the girl died anyway? Would the pharmacy be liable for contributing to the girl's untimely death?

Although we'd like to believe that giving the girl an EpiPen would have made a difference in the outcome, some severe allergic reactions may not react to the epinephrine dosage in the EpiPen. Then what?

If this scenario had happened in New York, do you think a pharmacist would have had the same reaction?

What if the mother jumped over the counter, grabbed an epipen and administered it to her daughter? Other than theft of services, which I'm sure she would have paid for later, if it saved the girl, do you think there would be any repurcussions?

What do you think? Was the pharmacist in Ireland right or wrong? Let me know below.



Gerry Oginski
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Charles A. Pilcher MD FACEP 12/24/2013 11:19 AM
There's some missing information here. Could the pharmacist SEE the patient, or was the mother the only one there screaming "I need an epi-pen for my daughter!". Here's the options: 1. Patient with mom in pharmacy exhibiting signs of breathing difficulty: In this case pharmacist should ABSOLUTELY have given her the epi-pen. Alternatively, the mother should have jumped the counter and fought the pharmacist if necessary to get one. At least the police would have been called immediately and help might have arrived quicker (if someone hadn't already summoned it.) 2. Daughter outside or elsewhere, and mother is the only one in pharmacy screaming about epi-pen and daughter: In this scenario, the pharmacist should ABSOLUTELY left the pharmacy (assuming another staff person was there, or the store could be emptied and locked) and gone outside with mother (with an epi-pen) to learn more about the situation and observe the patient. 3. There may yet be more options depending on the situation and details that are not yet known about the situation. This reminds me of the issue we occasionally face in the ED about treating ill or injured kids without a parent present to consent to the treatment. My position has always been that I would rather be sued for being overly concerned and caring, and using my best professional judgement in a crisis, than for neglecting an ill or injured child. And that happened once to me when I treated a Christian Scientist child with severe lacerations by injecting the wounds with lidocaine before the parent showed up and said "no drugs or stitches." I eventually closed about 10 inches of arm lacerations with steri-strips and bandages. The lidocaine was forgiven.
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Diane 12/24/2013 01:35 PM
This is interesting, especially since I don't know what the laws are in Ireland. As a nurse, I know that you need a prescription for an Epi-Pen from a physician. As someone with common sense, if you or your child had some type of severe allergy, whether to food or to insects or whatever, you should always carry an EpiPen on you. If the mother knew this girl was allergic to peanuts, why didn't she have an EpiPen in her bag? Instead of going into a pharmacy & expecting that the pharmacist would give an EpiPen to them, they might have been better served calling 911 (or whatever the equivalent of that is in Ireland) & having the girl taken to the emergency room. In the U.S., pharmacists are not legally permitted to dispense medications without a doctor's prescription. The mother was going on her own diagnosis, too. As far as the peanut allergy---in any Chinese restaurant I've ever been to, they cook with nuts. I know people with children who are allergic to nuts that do not even go out to eat because they don't know if there are any nuts in the kitchen. The mother may try to go after the pharmacy for her daughter's death, but I can't see how she's win. Based solely on emotions, a jury would think it was terrible of the pharmacist not to give the EpiPen. But, based solely on law, a jury cannot possibly rule in the mother's favor.
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Laura 12/31/2013 04:05 PM
Morally I think he should but I'm also sure he would have lost his job. Unfortunately things like this happen a lot. Maybe not this exact scenario but the outcome is always the same. Anyone who breaks company policy ends up unemployed. Unfortunately the pharmacist was in no win situation. He may have had six kids, truthfully we don't know? I do think the pharmacy however does have some liability. Companies should make exceptions for particular situations but unfortunately they don't. I feel bad for everyone involved including the pharmacist. Corporations should allow us to be human being first and not company robots. Personally I couldn't imagine being in this situation without suffering some long term emotional distress. No one should have to choose between saving a life or saving their job. Because of large corporations and greedy attorneys someone lost their child. This never should have happened!!
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Jane 02/15/2014 11:09 AM
Just as a follow up, there are no moral/legal grounds where one should consider future litigation risk, when faced with a life in danger. How selfish can one be? Oooh.. someone might sue me if I try to save this persons life....what a load of complete BS! That Irish incident makes my blood boil. Its not the first time its happened, and it won't be the last. All Pharmacists are healthcare providers...they should be annually certified in CPR and Resus.
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