Lung expert testifies George Floyd died due to difficulty breathing

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) — George Floyd could have been saved if Minneapolis police officers moved him to a position where he could breathe easier and his chances of survival would “double or triple” if they performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation as soon as his heart stopped. , a lung specialist testified Monday at the trial of three former officers accused of violating Floyd’s civil rights.

Floyd died because his upper airway was compressed by Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee, and his position on the hard pavement with his hands cuffed behind his back – as two other officers helped hold him down – prevented his lungs from expanding, Dr. David Systrom . said. This limited oxygen and increased carbon dioxide levels in his body, Systrom, a pulmonologist and critical care physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told the federal trial of J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Tao.

“Oxygen delivered to the heart and brain is critical to survival,” Systrom said, later calling Floyd’s death “a highly reversible event of respiratory failure.”

Kueng, Lane and Tao are accused of stripping Floyd, 46, of his rights when they failed to give him medical attention because Chauvin knelt on a black man’s neck for 9.5 minutes. Kueng and Tao are also being accused of not intervening in the May 2020 murder that sparked protests around the world and an overhaul of racism and policing.

Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back with Lane holding his legs while Thao held back passers-by.

Systrom, who is also an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, testified that Kuang’s body camera video shows him holding Floyd’s wrist, pressing it against Floyd’s back, which would prevent Floyd from releasing the pressure. According to Systrom, video from Lane’s body camera shows that Kuang’s knee is pressing against Floyd’s stomach. He said it’s “hard to say” if Floyd would have died if Kueng hadn’t pressured him.

READ MORE: Video of George Floyd’s murder will show three cops violated his rights, prosecutors

He said Lane’s restriction of Floyd’s legs would also prevent Floyd from getting into the correct breathing position.

Prosecutor Manda Sertich asked what could have been done before Floyd passed out. Systrom responded that it “could have been as simple as relieving upper airway pressure with a knee” or letting Floyd sit in handcuffs.

When asked about Floyd’s chances of survival if officers immediately began CPR after cardiac arrest, Systrom replied, “They would be doubled or tripled.”

Dr. Andrew Baker, chief medical examiner for Hennepin County, testified last week that Floyd died after police “overwhelmed, held and squeezed his neck,” causing his heart and lungs to stop. He said that heart disease and drug use were factors, but not major causes.

Systrom said that Floyd did not die of coronary heart disease or hypertension, and that there were no signs of a heart attack. Floyd’s medical records showed he had high blood pressure but a mostly normal heart rate and rhythm, he said.

“Would he have died that day of heart disease if not for the restraint of the officers?” Surtic asked.

“Absolutely not,” Systrom replied.

Kuang, black, Lane, white, and Tao, a Hmong American, are accused of willfully depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights while acting on government orders. The charges allege that the officers’ actions led to Floyd’s death.

Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in state court last year and pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges. He remains in prison.

Lane, Kueng and Tao will also appear in separate state court in June on charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter. All three were released on bail shortly after they were charged in June 2020.

Webber contributed from Fenton, Michigan.


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