As with many ethics problems, the most important question to answer is “What’s going on here?”
This is what happened.
I take quite a few drugs, some of which keep me breathing. My doctor now e-mails the full slate, usually a three-month supply, but with automatic refills, after every check-up. This time, I actually witnessed the prescriptions being sent. From the start, however, there was a screw up. The first three drugs I tried to get refills for turned up expired: there was no record of the directive from my doctor. Each time, the same thing happened: the CVS pharmacy automated line said the order “was being filled;” when I arrived to get it, I was told that the prescription had expired; I explained that they had a glitch in their system; one of the staff agreed (“Ugh! This ticks me off! Someone is automatically cancelling these orders!”); and I eventually got my drug, sometimes after giving me a partial refill and my having the doctor call CVS to confirm. The last time, however, the prescription I sought was ready. (They all had been e-mailed at the same time.) They also offered me another drug, and extremely expensive one, that I didn’t need immediately. I said I didn’t care to spend the money just then, and they told me they would hold it.
Yesterday I needed that drug, the previous supply having run out the day before. I had no opportunity to go to the pharmacy until nearly 9 PM, but it shouldn’t have mattered: the pharmacy during the week is open until the CVS closes at 10 pm, and I knew the prescription was ready, because of my previous visit.
But it wasn’t. The pharmacist, a young woman, told me that I had no valid prescription. “Nope,” I said. “Wrong.” And I explained what had been happening with my drugs, how I was told that the system glitch had been fixed, and also that I actually saw the filled prescription I now needed when I picked up my last prescription. AND, I said, firmly, skipping a day was not an option. This drug was one of the ones I could not skip.
Then the excuses started.
They had added a lot of staff, and there had been some similar mess-ups. My response: Not my problem.
It was late and it was too late for her to contact my doctor. Again: Your problem, not mine. Fix it.
Legally, she couldn’t give me a partial prescription without authorization. Again: this is your responsibility. I need the drug. I have done everything properly. You haven’t. You have an obligation to fix it.
I also pulled my handy-dandy lawyer card, pointing out that I was one, that if I suffered a serious health episode because of this failure on her part, she, and CVS, would be liable.
She asked me to wait while she tracked down my doctor’s emergency stand-by. She couldn’t. “There’s nothing I can do!” she said. “Sure there is,” I responded. “You just don’t want to do it. You have the product. You know what the prescription is. You can see that the routine has been to automatically refill this drug, and you know it is a crucial one. You are trying to make your problem, which is bad management, poor oversight and incompetent staff, my problem to my detriment. You are a pharmacist and a professional. People like me entrust our health and welfare to you, and depend on your competence. You have been incompetent. I will be explaining all of this when I contact CVS, if I live until tomorrow.”
Then she started to cry, and blubbered various pity stories as she prepared a partial supply. “I’m not supposed to do this, but I am. I’m having a terrible day. I was going to close early, and now I’m stuck here until ten. My staff all left or didn’t show up. This wasn’t my fault. Go ahead and complain to corporate. I don’t care any more.” Then she handed me my medicine.
“You made her cry,” said my wife. “Good!”
- I refuse to let organizations and their representatives make me suffer so their mistakes can be solved with minimum consequences to them, and that’s what was going on. That is what the pharmacist was trying to do. It is what incompetent bureaucrats always try to do. We should not let them get away with that unethical tactic.
They should be on notice that it won’t work.
- Was I being mean? Should I have been kinder and more understanding to the woman? Nope. Professionals don’t have the luxury of shrugging off non-performance and expecting their victims to be “nice.” I had already been nice about this problem more than once. This time, I had no margin for error.
I had every right to insist on the service I needed, and the pharmacist had no basis to deny it except “We screwed up,” to which the required response is, “Fix it.”
- Was I bullying the woman? I’m sure she thought so. One is not “bullying” when one insists on professional treatment and reminds individuals that their non-performance has consequences. I had everything on my side.
All she had were excuses.
- The crying was unprofessional, and, frankly, ticked me off as much as the rest of the incident. I was not the bad guy, and she made me feel like a bad guy. I also consider weeping under those circumstances an unethical use of gender bias. I would consider a grown man who reacted as she did ridiculous and unqualified for his job, and despite all my programming and acculturation to feel otherwise, the same goes for the young woman. If women want equality in the workplace, equal pay and equal respect, then they better be equal. “Women can do everything a man does as well or even better, except that under stress we get to act pathetic and start weeping. “
No. You don’t.