Man wrongly declared dead after traffic accident
Wednesday, January 26, 2005 Posted: 5:30 PM EST (2230 GMT)
RALEIGH, North Carolina (AP) -- A medical examiner studying a body in a morgue was startled when the man took a shallow breath.
Emergency medical technicians had declared 29-year-old Larry D. Green dead almost two hours earlier, after he was hit by a car.
Medical examiner J.B. Perdue was called to the accident scene Monday but did not examine Green then. Later, he was documenting Green's injuries when he noticed the man was breathing.
"I had to look twice myself just to make sure it was there, that's how subtle it was," Perdue said.
Green, 29, was taken to Duke University Medical Center in Durham, where he was in critical condition Tuesday.
Several members of the Franklin County emergency medical service have been suspended pending an investigation, said Darnell Batton, the county attorney.
Everybody with me so far? Car vs. pedestrian, pedestrian looses. He looks pretty mangled on the accident scene, so he's declared dead on the scene. HE'S NOT DEAD! And he's in fact so alive he lives without any medical care of any kind for two hours before the medical examiner notices he's breathing.
There's a little something called the Death in the Field Protocol which is a very specific set of criteria for declaring someone dead in the pre-hospital environment. Criteria include
- Injuries to the head and/or chest incompatable with life (crushing head injury, decapation, evisceration of heart/lungs, etc.)
- Asystole on an EKG monitor (flatline)
- Dependent lividity (blood pooling in body from the arteries/veins, causing discoloration)
- Rigor Mortis
Now you don't have to be a genius to figure out 4 of those 5 by simply looking at a victim. If there's any doubt, YOU TAKE THEM TO THE HOSPITAL, let the ER physician declare death. If the victim isn't badly injured, but isn't breathing and doesn't have a pulse, then it's time to do CPR. Err on the side of taking care of the person. It's not that complicated. Dumbasses.