Thursday, January 01, 2009

Times UK: Two ambulancemen arrested for allegedly neglecting a dying man

Brighton, East Sussex, UK - What would go through your mind if you arrived at the house of a disabled man following a 999 call for emergency medical assistance, and found the house he lived in was messy. According to this report from the Times Online two male medics, responding to a call to assist 59-year-old James Baker who was suffering from severe chest pains, were heard to say he was not worth saving, because, it is suggested, his house was untidy. Mr Baker, who lived alone, was disabled, and who is described by his landlord as "a really nice chap" who met with friends and played cards every Sunday morning at the local pub, collapsed and died. Here is an excerpt from the report:

By the time the ambulancemen arrived at the house in Patcham, Brighton, Mr Baker had collapsed, but the telephone line was still open and was being recorded.

It is alleged that staff in the control centre heard the two medics making disparaging comments about the state of the house.

A police source, who asked not to be named, said that the ambulancemen were then heard discussing Mr Baker and saying “words to the effect that he was not worth saving”.

The source said that the two men were allegedly first heard commenting on the untidy state of the house and then saying that it was not worth bothering to resuscitate Mr Baker.

They are said to have discussed what to tell ambulance control and decided to say that Mr Baker was already dead when they got there.

The controllers were said to be so shocked by what had allegedly been said that they contacted senior managers, who called the police.

“Obviously the crew did not realise that the phone was still connected and, of course, the 999 call was recorded on tape,” the source said.

“The tape recording of what the paramedics allegedly said has been handed over to the Sussex Police Major Crime Team as evidence.”

Sussex Police confirmed that two men had been arrested and that a full-scale investigation into the incident was being carried out by the major crime team.

The two men, who are both based at Brighton ambulance station, have been bailed until a date in January and have been suspended from duty.

If these allegations are true, it seems important to understand the associations these men made between disabilitiy, messy house, elderly man, recluse that led them to think he was not worth saving. What associations do you make? What would you have done?

See also Dying man probe: ambulence men held