Friday, December 26, 2008

Man died after misdagnosis by 911 responders

Washington DC Fire Chief Dennis Rubin asked the city's inspector general to investigate his agency's handling of an emergency call in which a man complaining of chest pains and trouble breathing died hours after paramedics told him he had acid reflux and did not take him to a hospital.

Edward Givens was not breathing when a relative found him lying in a hallway in the early morning of Dec. 3. Paramedics who responded to a 911 call about six hours earlier instructed Givens to take an over-the-counter antacid for what they assessed as acid reflux and left, family members said. Givens's mother, Lolitha Givens, said she wanted her son taken to the hospital but that paramedics said he did not need to go.

"It was the department's view that, because of the public scrutiny in this case, it required us to seek an outside, independent review," said a spokesman for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.

Rubin's decision to involve the inspector general appeared in contrast with his predecessor's actions in the case of journalist David Rosenbaum, who was fatally beaten in a January 2006 street robbery near his home in Northwest Washington. Paramedics mistakenly treated Rosenbaum as a drunk and of low medical priority. Days after the initial 911 response, Fire Chief Adrian H. Thompson declared that "appropriate measures were taken" and that rescuers met "all standards of care." But a report issued months later found "multiple failures" in Rosenbaum's care and "alarming levels of complacency and indifference" among the city's emergency responders.

Rosenbaum's family filed a $20 million lawsuit against the city for a series of missteps but decided on a settlement in which the city vowed to improve emergency care. An EMS task force was chaired by Rubin, and in recent months he has said the department has implemented many of the group's recommendations. Etter said the department will fully cooperate with the inspector general. "Our goal is to maintain the public's trust at all times," Etter said. (info from The Wahington Post)

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