The felony manslaughter and reckless homicide charges brought against two Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics who treated Elijah McClain before his death are likely to be the first of its kind in the United States and may have an impact on the entire emergency medical industry.
According to nearly a dozen doctors, former prosecutors, civil rights lawyers, and medical lawyers interviewed by the Denver Post, criminal cases of caregiver negligence and recklessness are extremely rare.
None of the people interviewed could think of a criminal case similar to the grand jury indictment announced by the grand jury on Wednesday. · Chicunitz’s prosecution.
Denver lawyer David Woodruff said: “It is extremely rare to file criminal charges against medical providers who have committed negligent or even reckless behavior.” accident.”
The two paramedics who gave McLean the sedative ketamine both face charges of manslaughter and manslaughter, as well as three counts of assault and six aggravated penalties. The three police officers who detained McLean also face felony charges for their role in the 23-year-old death in August 2019. If convicted, everyone will face years of imprisonment.
Some lawyers and doctors said that the indictment is disturbing because the charges against the nursing staff seem to criminalize the violation of the emergency medical agreement, which is usually not the standard in criminal cases. The indictment stated that Cooper and Cichuniec “deviated from the standard protocol governing when to take ketamine, and therefore it is illegal to take ketamine against Mr. McLean.”
According to the indictment, Cooper and Cichuniec failed to conduct a physical examination of McLean, mistakenly diagnosed McLean with delirium excitatory, injected him with a dose of ketamine that exceeded his size, and failed to monitor his complications after the injection. .
Former paramedic and attorney Steve Wirth said paramedics are often forced to make instantaneous decisions that may not have been made in the policy.
The indictment “may have a suffocating effect,” Voss said. “You can’t practice checklist medicine, because no patient is the same.”
The grand jury classified ketamine as a “lethal weapon,” which is often used to describe guns and knives in criminal proceedings.
The indictment states: “When the dose of ketamine exceeds the recommended dose and any possible side effects are not properly monitored, it increases the risk of death from ketamine.”
But Dr. Brent Myers, chief medical officer of the data company ESO, former president of the National EMS Physicians Association and long-term emergency doctor, said that any number of drugs commonly used by caregivers can be fatal if used improperly.
“If someone made an honest mistake, now it’s a crime — it’s paralysis,” Myers said. “I’m not saying that mistakes are okay, but what if you criminalize honest mistakes?”
It is difficult to know whether the prosecution of paramedics will have a chilling effect on the industry. Doug Wolfberg, an attorney who specializes in representing emergency medical providers and former emergency medical technicians, said that a small number of medical staff may think that the risk is not worth a salary of $20 an hour.
Jacob Oldefest, a caregiver in the Denver area, has a different view. He said that this work is inherently risky.
“Everyone is shooting, everything you do is recorded, and your boss, colleagues and the entire community will evaluate it,” he said, noting that this is part of the job.
State Senate Speaker Leroy Garcia said that the vast majority of caregivers and EMTs join the industry because they want to help people. He worked as a paramedic and paramedic instructor in Pueblo when there was no legislation.
“It shouldn’t make anyone more nervous about this profession, because every profession takes responsibility,” he said.
McLean’s death prompted lawmakers to strictly restrict the use of ketamine outside the hospital. A bill passed during the 2021 legislative session banned the use of ketamine in the treatment of delirium excitatory, a controversial diagnosis of extreme agitation.Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Suspend all exemptions in July This allows emergency medical providers to use ketamine to treat delirium agitans while the department reviews new laws.
Alderfest said that McLean’s death and his treatment embarrassed the entire EMS industry, adding that the new law and the suspension of the state’s ketamine exemption program were frustrating caregivers. Dozens of paramedics testified against the passage of the ketamine bill through the legislature.
“It was taken from us because another agency made a mistake,” Alderfest said. “I think they should be condemned, not all of us.”
Lakewood MP and lawyer Anita Springsteen, who supports the ketamine bill, said she hopes the indictment will encourage the attorney general and other prosecutors to review more cases of nurses using ketamine in response to police calls. Springsteen’s boyfriend was injected with ketamine in a police encounter last year, and she represents other Colorado people who have been injected.
“If it is a deadly weapon, it is not just a deadly weapon against Elijah McClain,” she said.
Civil rights lawyer Birk Baumgartner said he hopes that the prosecution of two caregivers will have a chilling effect on other caregivers who use ketamine.
“After this prosecution, no reasonable caregiver should consider taking the ketamine needle from the bag,” Baumgartner said. “You may be sued. If you use it to kill someone, you should be sued.”
Denver Post reporter Sam Tabachnik contributed to this report.