2 Ark. paramedics suspended after wrongly pronouncing woman dead

MEMS launches investigation into weekend response call

By Faith Abubey
Today's THV 11

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A Little Rock woman dies two days after paramedics thought she was dead when in fact she was alive.

The Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services (MEMS) executive director says he has full confidence in his medics and isn't ready to place fault. That's why he's launched an investigation.

Pamela Harper died around 2:30 Sunday afternoon.

"It never happened before that we judged a person to be deceased and they were not," said Jon Swanson, MEMS executive director.

Swanson calls it an unusual story about life and death, which now has two of his paramedics on paid suspension and under investigation.

The first emergency call came Friday morning around 6:30. Authorities say Harper was lying half-naked outside a family member's Little Rock home on Hunters Grove Drive.

"Unit responded, paramedics assessed the patient and determined that it was not appropriate to transport," Swanson said.

He adds that the emergency crews left after the first assessment. But when investigators arrived, they believed the 52 year-old was still alive and called paramedics back.

"We have two very experienced paramedics who responded to the same situation and determined they evaluated it the same way," Swanson said.

However, Pulaski County Coroner Garland Camper says, "It was evident with us that she was alive."

Camper explains that his office called emergency crews back a third time to take Harper to the emergency room.

"It had been reported that there was a debate between us and EMS, there was never a debate. We knew that Mrs. Harper showed signs of life," Camper said.

Because of privacy laws, neither the hospital, Camper nor MEMS is releasing details about why Harper needed medical attention yet.

In the meantime, Swanson says his ambulance service is looking into why it took nearly three hours after the initial call before the patient was finally taken to the hospital.

"This is a very unusual situation. One that we've never encountered before," he said.

Since Pamela Harper's death, the Pulaski County Coroner's office has launched its own death investigation.

"We were astonished at what we saw," explained Camper.

Republished with permission of Today's THV 11.

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