Most people associate medical malpractice with doctors, nurses and other hospital staff. However, sometimes we are in the hands of emergency medical personnel and other first responders before we get to the hospital. What happens if they don't do their job as they should?
A very troubling case in Michigan has got many people questioning what they would do if a first responder didn't go immediately to the scene of a medical emergency when called. The situation involved an 8-month-old infant who had been on a respirator since her premature birth. The baby had stopped breathing, and her mother was giving her CPR.
The long-time emergency medical technician and her partner, who work for the Detroit Fire Department, were dispatched to the family's home. They were less than a mile away when they got the call. According to the local media, when they arrived at the home six minutes later, instead of going inside, the senior EMT parked their vehicle around the corner. She reportedly refused to go inside and instructed her partner not to go in either.
In a local television news report, repeated messages could be heard from EMT dispatchers and a supervisor instructing the woman to attend to the baby. According to documents obtained from the department's internal investigation, the EMT told her supervisor, "I'm not about to be on no scene 10 minutes doing CPR, you know how these families get."
Ultimately, the EMTs transported the baby to the hospital. She died the following day.
While the EMT was immediately removed from duty, she has filed an appeal. The city's executive fire commissioner says that the decision over whether she ultimately keeps her job is his. The other EMT has reportedly not faced disciplinary action. It remains to be seen what action the baby's family takes against the EMT, her partner and the city.
Under West Virginia's Medical Professional Liability statute, a number of medical personnel and institutions are listed as health care providers. This includes any "emergency medical services authority or agency, or an officer, employee or agent thereof acting in the course and scope of such officer's, employee's or agent's employment."
Situations where an emergency worker behaves in such a seemingly callous manner are few and far between, one would hope. However, if an emergency worker causes injury or harm, whether through action or inaction, victims or surviving family members should explore their legal options.
Source: MLive Media Group, "Detroit Fire Department medic refuses to help dying baby," Gus Burns, June 24, 2015