Forum

Paramedic involved in Snowpocalypse death fails to uphold her ethics

A year ago, Curtis Mitchell died while Pittsburgh was buried under a massive blizzard. He did not, however, die from exposure. In a striking incident of callousness, paramedic Josie Dimon demanded that he walk four blocks to a waiting ambulance.

As transcribed by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, upon hearing that Mitchell was unable to walk Dimon remarked over the radio, “He ain’t [expletive] comin’ down, and I ain’t waitin’ all day for him. I mean, what the [expletive], this ain’t no cab service.” One of her colleagues said, “Ah well, he’ll be fine.” Mitchell was not fine. A few hours later, by the time another ambulance reached him, he was dead.

He died because Pittsburgh’s emergency first responders did not put forth enough effort to save him. When this event came to light in February of last year, the people of Pittsburgh were justifiably outraged. The paramedics and dispatchers responsible were disciplined, and Dimon was fired. After a year of lawsuits and appeals, an arbitrator reinstated Dimon last Tuesday and awarded her back pay for almost the entire time she was off the job. We are appalled at the arbitrator’s decision to ignore Dimon’s irresponsible actions and compromise the integrity of the city’s emergency workers.

By reinstating Dimon, the arbitrator has essentially validated her actions during the blizzard. According to a report released by city Public Safety Director Michael Huss after the incident, the medic was terminated for failing to call for a four-wheel-drive vehicle, failing to go after Mitchell on foot, making inappropriate radio transmissions, and failing to render the respect due a patient. While we acknowledge that the extreme circumstances of last February’s blizzard no doubt heightened stress for paramedics, Dimon’s actions were inexcusable.

As a member of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and under the EMT code of ethics, a paramedic’s primary responsibility is “to conserve life, to alleviate suffering, to promote health, to do no harm, and to encourage the quality and equal availability of emergency medical care.” The code goes on to state that “the Emergency Medical Technician shall maintain professional competence and demonstrate concern for the competence of other members of the Emergency Medical Services health care team.”

We find it incomprehensible that Dimon could demand that Mitchell — in pain and unable to move — walk to her ambulance when she, in good health, refused to walk four blocks to save his life. We find it almost as incomprehensible that an arbitrator could see nothing wrong with Dimon’s behavior, nothing that warranted termination or discipline.