RSS Feeds

District: Heart attack victim refused ambulance ride

Tuesday - 3/10/2009, 12:19am  ET

By Bill Myers
Examiner Staff Writer

A 39-year-old Northeast man refused an ambulance ride to a hospital hours before he died from a heart attack, the District is claiming in an internal investigation.

Edward Givens' family says that he was victimized by indifferent paramedics who told him to take antacids for his chest pains after they responded to a 911 call at his home on Dec. 2. District officials say their internal investigation vindicates Givens' treatment.

"The patient reportedly stated that he would have one of his parents drive him to the hospital if he later changed his mind," top Emergency Medical Service official Rafael Sa'adah wrote in a March 6 investigation summary addressed to Fire Chief Dennis Rubin.

"There is no evidence available at this time to indicate that the providers' acceptance of the patient's decision to refuse transport was motivated or guided by indifference, laziness, lack of compassion, or any other value-based factor," Sa'adah concluded.

Paramedics were dispatched to Givens' home in the 700 block of Division Avenue NE on Dec. 2 for a man complaining of chest pains. They examined and talked with Givens for a few moments and then left, according to city records.

About six hours later, Givens was dead. The city medical examiner's office determined that he had died from clogged arteries.

Givens' family has retained former D.C. Councilman William Lightfoot to represent them, and Lightfoot is currently gathering evidence for a wrongful-death lawsuit.

"His mother and brother witnessed the conversations. And it was the fire department personnel who said he did not need to go to the hospital," Lightfoot told The Examiner.

The documents also show that Givens' had an abnormal heartbeat, Lightfoot said.

"There was an abnormality there that should have been followed up," he said. "They didn't do it."

The city's ambulance service had to undergo a drastic restructuring two years ago, after the family of retired journalist David Rosenbaum sued over his care. Rosenbaum had been attacked in a vicious street mugging, but paramedics thought he was merely drunk and drove him to a hospital across the city so that one of the paramedics could run a personal errand.

Rosenbaum later died in a hospital waiting room. Under the Rosenbaum settlement, Mayor Adrian Fenty promised to improve service in the department or pay tens of millions of dollars to Rosenbaum's children.

(Copyright 2009 by D.C. Examiner. All rights reserved.)