Over the weekend the NYPD was embroiled in a controversy when Eric Garner died while in police custody. A cellphone video published by the Daily News showing the encounter between Mr. Garner and the police.
An additional video has surfaced showing the response of the EMTs and Paramedics (who arrive onscene at 3:47):
The New York Post cited a source that had this to say about the video:
“It was pretty obvious this patient was in distress,” a source said. “His body was limp and lifeless.”
Yet none of the workers — nor the eight cops on hand — can be seen in the video administering any aid to Garner. One medic at Garner’s side doesn’t even have any of the required equipment on her, such as an oxygen bag or a defibrillator, the source said.
“You can [only] hear her say, ‘Oh, he can’t walk to the bus?’ ” the source said.
Garner should have been immediately placed on a stretcher, and his airway, breathing and circulation checked, sources said. Instead, EMT Nicole Palmeri can be seen only checking for a pulse. She never uses a stethoscope to check his lungs for air movement, a source said, nor does she connect him to an oxygen mask.
Based on the video above, the two EMTs and two Paramedics who responded have been restricted by FDNY from responding to NYC 9-1-1 calls. It’s important to understand that they are not employed by FDNY, but by Richmond University Medical Center that voluntarily puts units into the NYC 9-1-1 system with no funding from the city to do so, hence the term VOLUNTARY units.
The public is outraged, asking a lot of valid questions, and throwing around a ton of accusations.
The Wall Street Journal interviewed a few “experts” on the topic of first response:
Israel Miranda, president of the Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics & Fire Inspectors Local 2507, said the medical responders should have put Mr. Garner on his back and given him oxygen.
“It was time to assist him with oxygen, obviously,” said Mr. Miranda, who doesn’t represent the responders on desk duty. “When someone has difficulty breathing the protocol is to give them oxygen.”
Guy Haskell, a paramedic and who runs his own emergency-medical-service consulting firm, said that when a chokehold is used on a person with existing medical conditions it can result in death. Mr. Garner’s family said he suffered from asthma and used an inhaler.
Maria Haberfeld, a professor of police science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said Mr. Garner appeared to have aggravated the situation by resisting arrest.
“He knew how to behave with police, it wasn’t his first encounter,” Ms. Haberfeld said, referring to Mr. Garner’s criminal record that authorities said includes more than 30 arrests dating back to 1988.
The New York Times had this expert offering their very interesting opinion:
“It was like she either didn’t want to be there, which is hard to understand, or police basically told her to just let him alone,” said Dr. Alexander Kuehl, who led the Emergency Medical Services in New York City during the 1980s. “She certainly didn’t do her job.”…
…Regardless of Mr. Garner’s condition, the medical workers’ apparent hesitancy struck medical experts as unusual.
Medical workers in that situation would have been expected to take over the scene by removing Mr. Garner’s handcuffs and checking his breathing, Dr. Kuehl said. In this case, he added, surrounded by a large group of police officers, the emergency medical worker may have taken her cue from the officers and skipped critical steps.
“She’s totally overawed by the cops,” Dr. Kuehl said. “She doesn’t do her assessment at all. There was something very peculiar about her approach.”
I hate it when “experts”, especially ones who should know better while living in glass houses, play Monday Morning Crew Chief and choose to throw stones. The part about “Medical workers in that situation would have been expected to take over the scene by removing Mr. Garner’s handcuffs…” goes to show exactly how far removed from reality these “experts” are. A patient who is in custody is a patient in custody, we have neither the authority or ability to remove handcuffs or take over the scene from NYPD. To insinuate otherwise is an outright lie and undoubtedly fuels the fires of EMS mythos that is alive and well in the city of New York. In my personal experience, once the cuffs go on they generally stay on. I have, on occasion, been able to have the patient re-cuffed to the stretcher once in the back of the ambulance. Other times I’ve actually had to get a boss down just to get the patient out of the back of a patrol car for an assessment. The situations are unique and different, and a lot of it depends on your relationship with the responding officers. I’m not saying anything is specifically right or anything is specifically wrong, but the reality is the NYPD have their procedures and quite often they do not match our own protocols. We are often left negotiating and compromising on the scene and in the moment about just how we’re going to proceed with a particular patient in the best interest and safety of all. This could be a similar case, and needless to say I am curious as to what went on in the back of the ambulance.
The real problem here is that the video is not complete. It’s hard to pass judgement when you can’t see the whole picture, especially when it comes to a patient that is in custody. While he looks unresponsive, after they lift him onto the stretcher you hear someone ask why they aren’t doing CPR, and another responder (cop?) says, “Because he’s breathing.”
I have a sneaking suspicion that the cause of death will end up being a myocardial infarction, probably secondary to the stress of the situation and the physical exertion of Mr. Gardner while supposedly attempting to resist the arrest. I don’t think it could be considered a case of excited delirium, but there are others who would know much better than I.
Here’s the thing though, we need to stop being Monday Morning Crew Chiefs. Sure I can speculate, make assumptions, and share my “expert” opinion but that’s not fair to the actual providers who were there and know the WHOLE story of how it unfolded. Of course, this doesn’t mean I have to allow others who were also blatantly NOT THERE do the same without receiving some criticism.
I think it’s also important to understand that these providers have been placed on PATIENT CARE RESTRICTION. This means that they are unable to operate as a provider in the NYC 9-1-1 system without first being cleared by the investigation, their medical director, and the FDNY Office of Medical Affairs. This is NOT a “modified duty” or “desk duty“, this is straight up you can’t work and therefore you don’t get paid. For voluntary hospitals who’s sole EMS presence is in the NYC 9-1-1 system, this is typical. Due to the level of scrutiny being put on this case, I wouldn’t doubt it if the New York State Department of Health is also investigating and, I imagine, would place the same level of restriction on them at a state level. As someone who has gone through such an investigation after the leveling of accusations (which ended up being completely baseless and I was vindicated after 3 months) allow me to assure you that it is already a very stressful situation for those involved… and it could happen to any one of us.
Let’s let the investigation take place and see what the results are before we take these EMTs and Paramedics out to the proverbial woodshed for their whoopin’ and let’s stop allowing “experts” far removed from reality to speak out of place when these instances occur.