Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Back in Maine I worked in a rural EMS system that relied heavily upon the dedication of its employees to deliver the best emergency care available. There were employees who lived throughout the 3000+ square miles that we covered and if a truck had to come from another district to answer a call then on occasion an employee would first respond if in the area and had the resources to do so. One particular evening had the system somewhat taxed and units spread thin when the call came in for a man down not breathing. Since there was only one unit available for this call and I was on my way home and about a mile up ahead was one of our bases so I figured I’d pop in, grab a jump kit & head over to meet the truck that was about 15 miles out from the scene.

I pull up in my vehicle, get out and walk in to the apartment building to find two of the towns newest police officers doing CPR on an elderly gentleman half in the bathroom and half in the entry way of his apartment. We pulled the man into the room to have some more space to work and I had one of them continue compressions while the other was applying the AED. A quick analysis of the rhythm by the machine advised that the patient was in a shockable rhythm and a stack of three shocks were administered. I proceeded to intubate the patient as the ambulance crew came in with the rest of their gear. We proceeded to work up this patient and while doing so the other paramedic informed us that he saw the patient two days prior when he was in the early stages of heart failure and refused treatment and transport despite being told by said paramedic that he would certainly die if left untreated. Despite our best efforts and our box full of ACLS tricks I can safely say with 100% certainty that the patient today has the most stable of cardiac rhythms- asystole.

Shortly after we terminated our efforts with the blessing of our medical control physician his daughter arrived on the scene. We went through our usual routine of explaining what happened to her father and she reported to us that her father told her that the medic informed him that he would most certainly die if left untreated. While we waited for the funeral home to retrieve the body and for more of her family to come to be with her she asked a handful of questions and as I was turning to leave her in the company of the on-duty crew so that I could go back to the ambulance base and write my run sheet she turned to them and asked with complete sincerity “Well, is there anybody I can sue?”

I know this woman was grieving and that people tend to say things that they normally wouldn’t mean in such situations but seriously folks, wtf?


Mona said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MedicMatthew said...

The deleted comment above was from a spam blog trying to sell us all insurance. Grr.