EMS industry reacts after EMTs charged with first degree murder
”... As frustrated as I’ve ever been on a call, I can’t fathom doing any of these things to a patient,” one commenter wrote
Two EMTs were charged with first degree murder after a patient died in their care.
This is not the first high-profile case of charges filed against EMS providers in recent years. In “Malpractice or murder: When do EMS providers cross the line from negligence to crime?”, Page, Wolfberg & Wirth attorneys Doug Wolfberg, Esq., and Steve Wirth, Esq., break down the facts of the case and the important lessons to be learned for EMS professionals nationwide, and explain why bodycam footage carries substantial weight in determining criminal charges. The two also discuss how a guilty verdict comes down to a “guilty state of mind.”
Are first-degree murder charges warranted in this case? Should EMS providers be protected from criminal charges when caring for patients? See how readers weighed in on an EMS1 poll and share your thoughts with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to be included in our ongoing coverage of this case.
Two Ill. EMTs were arrested after an autopsy report found a patient died in their care from “compressional and positional asphyxia” due to, or as a consequence of “prone facedown restraint on a ... cot/stretcher by tightened straps across the back” during a December call.
Shortly after the cause of death was issued by the coroner, the providers, Peter Cadigan and Peggy Finley, were charged with first degree murder and booked into the county jail on $1 million bond each.
Bodycam footage of the incident was released a day after the pair were charged. The 24-minute video sent shockwaves through the industry, with many viewers commenting on an apparent lack of compassion exhibited by the providers on scene, as well as the way the patient was secured to the stretcher.
What are your thoughts on this incident? Are first degree murder charges justified or an overreach? Take our reader poll or share your comments below.
“First thing I do if someone tells me they can’t breathe is vitals whether I believe them or not. This is pure complacency and it’s unethical. Your job is to help people no matter if they deserve it or not. Enjoy prison.” — Kim Bridge
“Before I saw the footage I thought, ‘Oh they should have restrained him with meds.’ No, they were just too plain lazy to roll him over and monitor him. He wasn’t fighting them. He walked most of the way to the cot.” — Asa Snouffer
“EMS got some positive publicity on the world stage for a few days until these 2 came along. What an embarrassment to the profession. This is not an accurate depiction of good EMS providers.” — Jane Clukey
“No one on scene did good by this man! The medics are clearly lazy, he was halfway on his side. Would have been very easy to roll him on his back.” — Heather Bainter
“Think about how many other patients were treated so unprofessional and without compassion like this and there’s no footage to show. This partnership was a disaster waiting to happen. If either had any shred of humanity left, they would have insisted on getting this patient out of the prone position and into safety. My guess is she was primary caregiver and he was the driver – the thought of how she treated and spoke to him on the ride to the hospital before he passed makes me shudder.” — Sarah Debbink
Video: Is deeply disturbing patient care murder?
When lots of red flags are waving, assess the patient, provide compassionate care and always take “I can’t breathe” seriously
“I will say that I’m extremely thankful that I have not seen anyone trying to defend these two or give them even the slightest bit of excuse. I’m mortified and as frustrated as I’ve ever been on a call, I can’t fathom doing any of these things to a patient. My heart breaks for this man that genuinely needed help.” — Amanda Jackson
“DTS is a real emergency. He appears to be in late stage already. It will definitely be hard to treat him if he starts seizing and having cardiac issues while prone. This is boiling my blood. Not one of them thought that maybe he physically can’t get up and walk ?. They don’t have one leg to stand on in court and I am glad they can’t use one excuse to swindle their way out of this mess.” — Angel D. Winefine
“Those two were done a long time ago. How they still had a job in this profession is beyond me. Even if he had not died, that is not the way to treat patients and should be termination immediately. The dude....since when do we slam patients down especially face first? I don’t care if it is on a cot and pillow! And then, pulling down on the straps as far as he could while he is laying face down! What did they think was gonna happen? Obviously neither one of them cared at all. If they did, there would be no video for us to watch. Shame on them two. The cops did what they could and spoke to him with compassion. I am outraged to see how the ambulance crew went about this call. I don’t care if it is someone you see every shift. That kind of patient care is 100% unacceptable and I do hope the punishment is not light!” — Jennifer Westcott
“If ‘time to leave the streets’ were people. Their burnout is palpable. Completely inexcusable they didn’t at least flip him over.” — Bob Stanley
“This is sickening. There was absolutely no reason to restrain the patient in a prone position and there’s absolutely no reason why the female medic treated the patient that way. I’m also surprised PD didn’t question them placing him on the stretcher that way. The whole scenario makes me so angry! This man needed help and compassion!” — Megan Duda Trawick
“I stopped counting the mistakes. There were too many. This was disturbing to watch, and I hope they both rot in prison where they belong.” — Rebecca Dewberry Hinyub
“Paramedic of the year right there, disgusting! That agency should be ashamed to hire such awful people. We all have had bad days but no excuse for the attitude right from the start. Great assessment, she never put a hand on him at all or asked any questions.” — Steve Lewis
“I watched this with the sound muted and immediately saw the EMS crews disdain for having to be there. The lack of care in the looks in their faces and body language. Then when the male medic or EMT picked up the patients upper body and slammed him face first into the gurney, well that sent me. Neither of these two belong in emergency health care. Just sickening.” — Stephen Procedo
“I’ve had late nights… burnouts…. Everything. But one thing I’ve never done is provide insufficient care to a patient because I don’t want to deal with them. Let’s be honest, 90% of ems calls aren’t true “emergencies” like how we would classify them. But it is still your JOB to provide the best care possible. If a daycare worker was fed up with a baby who was crying all day shook that child, it doesn’t matter how fed up the worker is, it doesn’t matter what the child did. That is the workers JOB to protect and take care of them. Even the way the personnel on scene was talking to the patient was gross in my opinion.” — Payton Hale-Simpson
“I teach EMTs and Paramedics at a college in MI. We not only teach proper patient management procedures but also appropriate affective behavior when dealing with patients, family, bystanders, and other emergency workers and healthcare professionals. What I witnessed in the video was totally inappropriate affect of the female EMT – no empathy or compassion, no actual assessment of a patient in obvious distress, plus (now also involving her partner) improper positioning of the patient on the stretcher and clear inappropriate strapping of a patient (clearly the straps were too tight over the back inhibiting the patient’s ability to breathe). The police officers displayed totally appropriate behavior in that situation and though they were the ones placing the patient on the stretcher (this should have been the responsibility of the EMTs), they are not responsible for the medical care of a patient.” — Denise Martin
Malpractice or murder: When do EMS providers cross the line from negligence to a crime?
“When the prosecutor sees and hears compassion, competence and professionalism, even in the face of significant errors being made, it becomes much harder to justify filing criminal charges.”