paramedics tactics under fire following death of pregnant woman

Shocking instances of hospital negligence or egregious medical mistakes almost always seem to involve dangerous or negligent conduct on the part of physicians, nurses, technicians or those otherwise involved in providing patient care in a clinical setting. However, what about paramedics? Aren’t these front-line responders — who arguably have one of the most important jobs in getting a patient to the hospital alive — also capable of serious lapses in judgment for which they should be held accountable?

To help answer this question, consider a recent case right here in Pennsylvania.

This past Monday, the family of a 24-year-old Philadelphia woman — we’ll call her Joanne — called 911 after they discovered that she had fallen down the stairs and was having problems breathing. This normally disturbing scenario was made all the more frightening for family members given that Joanne was on medication for a blood clot, an asthmatic and nine months pregnant.

Paramedics arrived on the scene a mere three minutes after the 911 call was placed. However, their behavior after their arrival is now the subject of an ongoing investigation by city officials.

Surveillance video from Joanne’s family home shows the paramedics entering the home with no equipment, including no oxygen or stretcher.

“They start looking at my niece and say ‘okay ma’am I need you to sit up.’ My niece is telling them ‘please, I can’t breathe, I’m weak, I can’t move’ and she was like ‘you need to do your part.’ The EMT is telling her she needs to do her part,” said Joanne’s aunt.

It only gets worse from there as the surveillance video indicates that it took the paramedics between eight to nine minutes to administer oxygen to Joanne and get her out of the home. Furthermore, the video then shows the ambulance sitting idle for another seven minutes after loading Joanne into the back.

In a freak turn of events, the ambulance doors somehow became stuck upon the ambulance’s arrival at the hospital and an emergency room physician had to enter through the side door to start working on Joanne.

The ambulance doors were finally opened three and a half minutes later, but by then it was too late as Joanne had already died. Fortunately, physicians were able to save her baby via an emergency cesarean section.

The surveillance footage of the incident has been shared with city officials, including the Fire Commissioner and the City Public Safety Director, and an investigation is ongoing. The two paramedics in question are on leave.

Joanne’s family has since expressed their belief that if the paramedics had administered the proper urgent care at the outset of the medical emergency, their daughter would still be with them.

“If they would have came here better trained, with all their equipment, oxygen on time, yes, she would have been maybe in the hospital still, but alive,” said her aunt.

It remains to be seen whether Joanne’s family will pursue legal action. Remember to consider consulting with an experienced legal professional if you or a loved one has been victimized by any type of medical negligence.

Source: NBC News – Philadelphia, “Pregnant woman dies, family blames medics,” Marisa Brahney and Lauren DiSanto, Oct. 3, 2012

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