Friday, January 14, 2005

Tiller patient rushed to hospital

Operation Rescue West published this report of a patient being rushed to the hospital via ambulance from Tiller's mill in Wicheta.

As an EMT, and as somebody who has provided abortion malpractice litigation support, I'd like to comment on some of Op-R West's coverage:

With sirens blaring and emergency lights flashing, an ambulance rushed an injured woman to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita...

Lights and sirens does not necessarily indicate that the woman's life was in danger. They indicate that the event met the protocols for lights and sirens, which would include mere suspicion of a life-threatening injury. I myself have run lights and sirens with a patient who was care-flighted to a trauma center, but who turned out to have only minor injuries. If the MOI (Mechanism of Injury) can cause a life-threatening injury, EMS workers treat the patient as if she has a life-threatening injury until a qualified emergency physician rules out that possibility. So in this case, the lights and sirens might have only indicated that Tiller was erring on the side of caution with this patient.

"They almost caused an accident at the intersection," said witness Brenna Sullenger, who filmed the arrival of the ambulance at Wesley. "They were in a big hurry."

Ambulance crashes are the number one cause of death among EMS workers. One cause of these crashes is running with lights and sirens! They reduce the drivers' ability to notice other traffic. They also give the drivers a false sense of security, leading them to take unnecessary risks when driving. So this is not a reflection of the seriousness of the patient's injuries. It's a reflection on the training and skills of that particular ambulance driver.

...Edna Roach, a nurse's assistant who often escorts injured women to the hospital from the mill...was observed to carry medical files into the Emergency Room in an apparent effort to expedite the intake process.

I'm not sure what to make of this. When we transported patients from outpatient facilities, usually the physician would call the recieving hospital and fill the staff in on what was happening with the patient. Having staff get to the hospital ahead of the patient does provide the patient with a sense that she is being looked after rather than shunted off -- which is both sound bedside manner and one of Warren Hern's hints for avoiding being sued by an injured patient. I can't think of any medical reason for this.

"As I pulled into the hospital parking lot, the EMTs were unloading the woman from the ambulance. ...they appeared very grim and in a very big rush to get the woman inside. She was covered with a blanket."

This could be due to the serious nature of the patient's injuries, due to a wish to get her inside quickly to protect her privacy, or due to a simple wish to finish the run quickly.

Tiller arrived a few minutes later in his armored Jeep, driven by another employee, Sara Phares.

This would make sense if Tiller transferred her with the intention of treating her himself. If so, this is actually a medically sound move on his part, willingness to brave bad publicity in order to treat his patient in a more suitable location. Michael Burnhill, erstwhile Medical Director of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, used to scold Steve Lichtenberg for treating potentially dangerous complications on-site.

Meanwhile, back at the abortion mill, Pro-life witnesses observed one of Tiller’s security guards expelling a KNSS (radio) reporter from their parking lot in an effort to institute a media blackout of this story.

Actually, any medical facility will try to divert media attention in the name of patient privacy.

As much as I loathe what Tiller does and all that he stands for, the only fault I can find with him surrounding this event is that he was evidently at least preparing to do an abortion on this woman. She might well have suffered an attack of a pre-existing condition while on-site. To retain our credibility, we have to be careful to report carefully and not rush to judgment. Yes, he has no business slaying fetuses for politics and profit. But if he's convinced that he was doing this woman a favor by "treating" her, his handling of the emergency so far raises no eyebrows, just mild curiosity as to the reason for Edna Roach's early arrival at the emergency room.

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