logo for print

EMT refused to respond; I can't find a reason to withhold judgement

Compassion is what gives EMS meaning and an EMT or medic that lacks it needs to leave the tough work to the rest of us


I’ve been following the story of a Detroit EMT from afar, not believing that an on-duty EMS provider would refuse to respond to a confirmed infant cardiac arrest without a very real explanation. 

Like other highly publicized cases of apparent wrongdoing, I cautioned myself about rushing to judgment. Surely, there must have been some reason she defied orders to respond.

So far, I can’t find it.

The family of an 8-month-old girl who died after EMT Ann Marie Thomas refused to respond has filed a lawsuit against Thomas, the city and fire department on two counts of gross negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

In looking through social media comments, some have defended the actions of the EMS provider, stating safety as an absolute reason for not entering a scene. Politely, I say: You have got to be kidding. 

No scene is ever absolutely, 100 percent safe from hazards. Danger is an inherent risk of the job that we mitigate through careful decision making and actions that minimize the danger. 

Given the information being provided by dispatch, the risk assessment would have favored a safe scene. The radio transcript implies no recent history of violence at the address; the EMS provider made a general statement about her opinion of how a family might react. 

And you know what? I think it’s okay for a family to be greatly concerned about a child’s critically ill condition. EMS providers are trained to react appropriately and professionally. 

The partner is another issue 

Each EMS provider is responsible for his or her actions. 

"Just following orders" doesn’t work in our field; each of us has an ethical responsibility to our patients. I’m assuming that the partner made some attempt to override her partner’s decision, or at least make it abundantly clear that she would have no part of that decision.

Cause and effect - that’ll be harder to connect. The infant was critically ill to begin with, and CPR was being performed prior to the transport unit’s arrival. 

But the damage to the system’s reputation is done. For years the Detroit Fire Department EMS division has struggled to maintain services as the city went bankrupt. To have such an open display of poor behavior by a public servant will reflect poorly on the other EMS providers who have continued to provide service regardless of the situation. 

Listening to the report, I was upset by the details, as well as saddened by the notion that there are those of us who have hardened to the point where compassion doesn’t live. This job is all about compassion. Without it, the job becomes meaningless. Consider another line of work, and leave the tough stuff to those who understand what it’s really about.

Request product info from top EMS Neonatal/Pediatric companies

Thank You!

*= required

Error occured while sending data

Join the discussion

Brand focus

Sponsored content
4 simple ways to improve ambulance safety during transport

4 simple ways to improve ambulance safety during transport

Follow recent guidance on fasteners and restraints to minimize the potential for patient and provider injury while in transit

Copyright © 2017 EMS1.com. All rights reserved.