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    Monday, September 18, 2006

    ER: Life on the Streets: A coroner's inquest jury has ruled that a heart attack is homicide if the patient dies while waiting in the emergency room:

    Spelling out a timeline that stated Vance was brought to the Vista East emergency room at 10:15 p.m. and was unconscious when a nurse called her name for attention at 12:25 a.m., Deputy Coroner Robert Barrett testified that 'delayed and inadequate treatment' was a contributing cause in her death.

    The jury came back with a finding that the emergency room provided 'a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise in the situation. We the jury believe the matter of her death to be a homicide.'

    Either the jury has their television dramas mixed up, or they've been kept waiting too long a few too many times themselves. Who would be charged with homicide in this situation? The legal eagles aren't so sure themselves:

    Having received that finding, Waller noted that one factor in his office's review is that "under Illinois law, there is no charge of negligent homicide." While statutes do include reckless homicide, Waller said that is applied to vehicular incidents.

    He added that he doesn't anticipate that any emergency room personnel would be charged as individuals in the case, saying, "I don't think it's fair to single anybody out."

    As for Vista Health as a company, Waller said "just to put it into context, in order to charge a corporation, we'd have to show that a controlling officer was involved" in any mistreatment on the night Vance died.

    Sounds like it belongs in civil court as a malpractice case rather than in criminal court.

    UPDATE: GruntDoc is already on the case, and one of his commentors makes a very valid point - emergency rooms are not bottomless pits of resources. Sometimes there is just no room (or oxygen) in the inn.

    posted by sydney on 9/18/2006 09:07:00 PM 2 comments


    That just doesn't seem fair. The guy was looked at by a nurse, is not seeing a doctor in time now a sin?

    By Anonymous Dara, at 10:02 AM  

    If one goes to the 'about' page of the hospital's website, one will see that the hospital has modern cardiac cath facilities and a modern emergency department.

    When a patient comes in with 10 out of 10 chest pain, nausea and shortness of breath, that triad screams 'MI!!" to good ER nurses and doctors. Such a patient moves immediately to the head of the line, and appropriately so.

    We (the medical profession) know that prompt treatment with nitrates, oxygen, clot-dissolving drugs, beta-blockers, and aspirin substantially reduce the immediate risk of death. We also know that if the hospital has a cardiac cath lab, getting the patient there within the first two hours of presentation for diagnosis and treatment of the coronary blockage reduces mortality further.

    I live in this state, and this episode has me shaking my head in disbelief. I don't know whether it's properly a 'homicide', but a horrific blunder? Without question.

    By Blogger Steve White, at 1:52 PM  

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