Cops Are Telling Paramedics To Inject Arrestees With Ketamine. Worse, EMS Crews Are Actually Doing It.
from the horrific-behavior-by-all-involved dept
Something strange and disturbing is going on in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Cops have been instructing paramedics to use certain drugs to subdue arrestees, which is about as advisable as allowing paramedics to instruct officers on use of force. Cops don’t know what’s best for arrestees in terms of medical care. The fact that paramedics have been following their instructions is the most disturbing fact of all. As the Star Tribune reports, cops telling EMS personnel what to do has put people’s lives in jeopardy.
Minneapolis police officers have repeatedly requested over the past three years that Hennepin County medical responders sedate people using the powerful tranquilizer ketamine, at times over the protests of those being drugged, and in some cases when no apparent crime was committed, a city report shows.
On multiple occasions, in the presence of police, Hennepin Healthcare EMS workers injected suspects of crimes and others who already appeared to be restrained, according to the report, and the ketamine caused heart or breathing failure, requiring them to be medically revived. Several people given ketamine had to be intubated.
The paramedics are fully complicit in this horror show. They’re overriding their own knowledge and medical training with catastrophic results. This atrocious behavior was exposed by a report from the Office for Police Conduct Review. The report showed ketamine injections increased from three in 2012 to 62 in 2017. It wasn’t until this report was delivered to police that anyone decided to do anything about it. The Minneapolis Police Commander has now forbidden officers from instructing EMS crews to sedate a subject.
Ketamine is a dangerous drug. The police know this. They classify it as a “date rape” drug, capable of putting people into deep sedation and altering their memories. Healthcare providers know this, too, which is why they’re often hesitant to use it as a sedative if the subject has preexisting breathing problems. Ketamine can kill under these circumstances. When used as a first response in the sedation of detainees, medical histories aren’t available and the outcome can be death.
Allowing police to “prescribe” sedatives is a horrible idea. The report shows Minneapolis cops nuked arrestees with a powerful sedative just because. In many of the cases examined, there appeared to be no reason to escalate to a dangerous sedative.
To evaluate how the sedative was being used, the Office of Police Conduct Review investigators looked for mentions of the word in police reports, and then reviewed body camera footage from those cases.
“Multiple videos showed individuals requiring intubation after being injected with ketamine, and [police] reports indicate that multiple individuals stopped breathing and/or their hearts stopped beating after being injected with ketamine,” the report said.
The police encounters that led to EMS using ketamine ranged from cases of obstruction of justice to jaywalking, according to the report. One man was dosed with ketamine while strapped to a stretcher and wearing a spit hood.
Unbelievably, the story gets worse. Those dosed with ketamine at the suggestion of police officers suffered rude awakenings at Minneapolis hospitals. Hennepin Healthcare went ahead and enrolled detainees in its ketamine study without their consent. Supposedly consent isn’t actually required by law, which makes a sort of cosmic sense when you’re studying the effects of a date rape drug. “Enrollees” could opt out afterward, but that offers little comfort when you’ve been sedated so heavily you need a machine to breathe for you.
This study exacerbated Hennepin Healthcare’s ketamine problem. Ramping up dosings at the request of cops had already increased the number of life-threatening reactions to the drug. This incentive allowed this to carried over to day-to-day work, resulting in EMS personnel using ketamine whenever possible, even without verbal shoves from under-educated cops.
Body camera footage from one case showed a woman, after being Maced by police, asking for an asthma pump, the draft report said.
Instead, a paramedic gave her an injection of ketamine.
“If she was having an asthma attack, giving ketamine actually helps patients and we’re doing a study for agitation anyway so I had to give her ketamine,” the unnamed paramedic told a police officer, according to the report.
After receiving ketamine, the woman’s breathing stopped, and medical staff resuscitated her, according to the report.
Of course, there’s an explanation for all of this. It comes courtesy of Hennepin Healthcare’s top official. And it sounds like something written by police officers, rather than an expert in the medical field.
Dr. William Heegaard, chief medical officer for Hennepin Healthcare, said ketamine can be a lifesaving tool when paramedics encounter people showing signs of “excited delirium,” a condition when severe agitation can lead to death.
When you’re fighting a losing battle against negative press, the worst thing you can do is name a condition that originated with the pseudoscience of 19th century insane asylums and was revived by the manufacturer of Tasers to help law enforcement agencies bullshit their way through court cases involving citizens tased to death by cops.
In the past, Taser has hosted seminars and sent out pamphlets on excited delirium to police and medical examiners’ groups across the country; sued medical examiners who listed their stun guns as a cause of death; and even gave law enforcement agencies a ready-made statement for when someone dies after police shock them with a stun gun: “We regret the unfortunate loss of life. There are many cases where excited delirium caused by various mental disorders or medical conditions, that may or may not include drug use, can lead to a fatal conclusion.”
Heegaard’s hospital and staff engage in highly-questionable behavior and he’s trying to pin it on a condition most of the medical community doesn’t recognize as an actual syndrome. This whole debacle shows just how far cops have strayed from the “serve and protect” ideal. This is all about making things as easy as possible for officers accompanying detainees to medical care facilities. They want them knocked out, even if it raises the risk of killing them.
It also shows how easy it is for abusive behavior to spread when it’s originating from law enforcement officers. Paramedics know better. They know they’re the first line of defense against further injury or trauma. And they’re willing to throw that all away just because a cop tells them to dope up compliant detainees.
On top of everything, there’s the skewed incentives of Hennepin Healthcare, which has found a way to gather subjects for studies by sedating them so heavily they can’t possibly object to anything. There should be a whole lot of people in both fields filing for unemployment. But that isn’t how thing work when cops are involved. New policies will be put in place and everyone who fucked citizens with unneeded ketamine injections will just go back to work with a mental note in place reminding them to be a bit more careful when abusing the public’s trust.