Finally, in the news this week, we look at another unusual story about a patient who is blaming EMS in some way. I got this article from the Village voice website. A Bronx woman is suing police and emergency medical services providers for injuries that occurred when she escaped custody and ended up leaping from a third story window.
Injury After Leap From 3rd Story Window
Apparently, police were called for a mentally ill individual breaking car windows on a city street. An ambulance was also dispatched. The patient was detained by police and placed in the back of the ambulance but sometime during the situation the patient ran from the back of the ambulance, into a nearby building, and then leapt from a third story window to the sidewalk below, incurring unknown injuries.
Where does responsibility for this patient begin and end? This is a question that is being asked in the lawsuit and I would argue should be discussed among ourselves as well. The lawsuit is arguing that the patient should have been restrained because of their obvious mental distress and agitation. We know that restraint is used as a last resort when transporting a patient unless police are present and are using handcuffs.
Situational Awareness and Patient Safety
I think this is a cautionary tale for all of us. We need to be aware of what our patients are doing once we have them in our care and should not leave them unattended in the back of an ambulance especially when perhaps they are mentally disturbed. I want to make it clear that I’m not second guessing these EMTs.
There is not enough information in the article to say whether or not they had the patient strapped to the cot or whether they were in the process of determining who had custody of the patient with police officer. But it is a good article to begin discussion among ourselves about how we care for these types of patients and ultimately protect ourselves from lawsuits like this one.
EMS Training Opportunity
Show this article to your training officer and medical director and ask them for an opinion and perhaps some training on how to handle situations like this one. I welcome your thoughts. Please send them in by email to Podmedic@mac.com or leave a comment in the comments link for this article.
Follow-up on the link for this and other news items as well as all of the additional resource links in the show notes for this episode – Social Media, EMS and Public Health on Episode 344.