Fla. man may sue after being forced to ride in ambulance

After man lost consciousness, paramedic determined he was at high risk for a stroke, and needed to go to the hospital


LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. — A Lehigh Acres man says he was forced to take an ambulance ride to the hospital. Now he's stuck with the bill he doesn't think he should have to pay.

Last May, Kenneth Rothwell went for a walk. A few hundred feet from his home, he collapsed. "There were cars all around me," Rothwell said. "My neighbors came running down, got me off the ground and brought me home."

But someone called 911, and soon a deputy and Lehigh EMT were at his door. The paramedic determined he was at high risk for a stroke, and needed to go to the hospital. Rothwell said he couldn't afford it, and would cool off with a shower instead. That's when he was faced with an ultimatum.

"I never called for it," Rothwell said. "then, I was forced to go for this ride. It was either go, or you're going to be handcuffed and we're going to take you."

So he went, noting there was no hurry, no sirens or flashing lights. "Three months later, I received a bill in the mail. $554 for an ambulance ride."

Rothwell wrote a letter, asking that the fee be waived. He was under the impression it had been handled until 6 weeks ago, when he was contacted by a bill collector. "They forced me out of my home and made me do something I didn't want to do," Rothwell said. "My Constitutional right has been violated."

Last week, the Lehigh Fire District's Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 not to waive the $554 fee.

Chief Don Adams tells WINK: "Paramedics have to decide what's in the patient's best interest and transport based on physical condition... especially if patients are not in the right frame of mind to make that decision." He supports the paramedic's actions.

"They did a professional job," Rothwell said. "Did they overstep that bound when they forced me out of my house? Yes they did. How many other people has this happened to in Lehigh Acres being forced to do this? When you say no, it's no. I don't want it."

Board Member Kevin Shea said the situation was "poorly handled" by the fire district, and he hoped the board would have come to a reasonable solution. As for Rothwell, he has no plans of paying the bill, and is looking for an attorney to represent him.

Reprinted with permission from WINK.

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