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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

When medics are called to testify

Testifying in court can be, and is, daunting — even if you are not the defendant. Keeping calm and being prepared will make it go a bit easier.

By Arthur Hsieh

Three Pa. EMT's were called to testify to an accused killer's coherence this week. The patient in question claimed he was too dehydrated and had lost too much blood to lucidly confess his crimes, a claim that the EMT's refuted.

It is not unusual for EMS personnel to testify as witnesses in a criminal case.

There are times when an injury or death occurs as a result of the crime, and we are called to render aid and transport. We do our job well, and the patient is transported without incident.

Weeks later we find that there was some type of criminal or civil liability that occurred during the call, and we are asked to provide an eyewitness account of what we saw and heard.

This article serves as a good reminder to always be prepared for the inevitable summons to testify at a deposition or trial. It can be nerve-wracking; witnesses often report that they feel like they are being treated as defendants due to the intensity of the questioning being directed at them.

Keep in mind the basics:

1) Make sure your documentation is accurate and complete. It will serve as your memory of facts and details that will be difficult to remember month, even years after the event.

2) Contact your organization as soon as you receive a summons. This will help get the ball rolling in preparation for your testimony.

3) Review the documentation with the attorney assigned to the case. Don't get frustrated or upset if the attorney asks you questions and challenges your recollection. He or she is trying to get a full understand of how your observations fit in with the rest of the evidence.

4) Rehearse your testimony with the attorney. You will want your testimony to be accurate, clear, and easily understandable.

Testifying in court can be, and is, daunting — even if you are not the defendant. Keeping calm and being prepared will make it go a bit easier.

About the author

EMS1 Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at
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