Waiting For God

Due to my crewmate skivving off over the holiday period I found myself with no-one to work with. The resource centre rang me up and asked if I wouldn't mind working on the FRU. I've found that it's in my best interests to do as they ask, otherwise there is a fear that they'll send me to the other side of London for a giggle…

So I loaded my kit onto the car and got ready for a busy night.

Fifteen calls in a twelve hour period later and I was glad to be heading home.

Luckily for me, a lot of the calls were for 'Man-flu' and in one case the female version of the same – 'Bird-flu'.

Ahem.

Blame fellow 'twitterers' for that joke.

With all this man-flu going around I wasn't surprised when I saw a call come down to my FRU. “27 year old male, unwell ?cause”. So I whizzed round to the address and was met by a woman I would find out to be the wife of the patient. She led me into their one room flat where my patient was lying on the bed.

My immediate impression was that he was fine. No obvious difficulty in breathing, no rolling around in pain. As I entered he looked at me and his gaze followed me around the room. So unlikely to be anything serious then.

I looked at the wife, she'd started crying.

“Don't worry, he'll be fine”, I said.

“No he won't”, she sobbed, “He's going to die”.

Well, he didn't look like he was going to die to me, and I'm normally a pretty good judge of people who are likely to stop breathing.

So I asked the patient,”What seems to be the problem?”

“I'm going to die tonight”, he said with utter conviction, “God is calling me”.

Oh great.

“What makes you think that?”, I asked.

“I just know, I've already phoned my family back home and told them”.

So now his family halfway across the world would be worried. Happy Christmas!

After some prompting from me he continued, “In my religion, Islam, God sometimes calls people. That is why I know I'm going to die tonight”.

“Look mate”, I told him, “I work round here, so I meet a fair few Muslims, none of them have ever mentioned that before”.

I spoke to his wife, they had just come back from shopping, there hadn't been an argument or anything unusual that day. He'd just taken to his bed and declared that he would die.

At this moment the ambulance crew arrived. I explained what was happening and we all agreed that he needed to go to hospital. While he (almost certainly) wasn't going to die that night we were worried that he might take matters into his own hands.

Rather predictably he didn't want to go to hospital.

So now we were looking at arranging a Section. Which needs two GPs and an approved social worker. At 3am in the morning. Over the Christmas holidays.

The chances of arranging that were slightly less than him actually being right and God beaming him directly into Heaven that night. I contacted our Control – they had the same view that we were pretty much stuck on our own.

Our hands were tied, if he were in a public place we could get the police to emergency section him, but as he was in his own house, they were as powerless as us. Except… There is a bit of information floating around in my head that with enough high-ranking officers we can maybe section him anyway.

Time to turn on the charm.

“Look mate”, I said, “the thing is that we think you are having a psychotic episode. So we'd like to take you to hospital. I don't feel happy leaving you here. So I'm going to give you a choice. I'm all about choice me. Choice 'A' is that you come with us now – spend some time at the hospital and have a chat with someone. Choice 'B' is that we contact the police and ask them to come down and see if they are able to persuade you to come to hospital. Either way I think you'll be going to hospital”.

“Ok”, he said and got his shoes on and walked out to the ambulance.

There is a line between persuading someone, coercing someone and forcing someone to do something. I think that this was persuasion rather than coercing, as I truly would have called for the police and often they can persuade someone to go to hospital. I would have been really unhappy to leave him at home as if he wasn't suddenly suffering from a mental health problem it could have been something more physical and life-threatening. Either way his life could have been in danger and, while I don't have the power to force him to come to hospital, I can do my best to persuade him.

I've not had a note from the coroner's office yet – so I don't think that his God's plan was for him to die that night.


So far I've been keeping my 'Photo a day' thing over at Mental Kipple. Thanks to those who have offered services, but I'm pretty well set up with Flickr and my WordPress blog.

22 thoughts on “Waiting For God”

  1. That's gotta be dangerous ground in today's climate, eh? It's good that you convinced him, and I don't think it was coercing or bullying – you laid out exactly what would happen if he didn't cooperate, and you meant it.Take it easy, Tom

  2. > “Look mate”, I told him, “I work round here, so I meet a fair few> Muslims, none of them have ever mentioned that before”.

    There's a fallacious assumption there that all Muslims are the same. Are all Christians the same? No. Some believe in papal infallibility, some don't; some believe that the world is 6000 years old, some don't; some believe that they can handle poisonous snakes and be unharmed, some don't.

    Some of the differences in belief within individual religions are cultural and some cultures definitely have a concept of God calling time on you. For one, to use a familiar example, many of the native north American Indian cultures do and it's a concept I've come across in some African and Arabic cultures. It's quite possible, as you don't mention this guy's ethnicity, that he comes from such a culture.

    It's a bit of a stretch to go immediately from “I don't agree with your irrational beliefs” to “we think you are having a psychotic episode”, and I think you're dangerously close to the line here.

    > There is a line between persuading someone, coercing someone and forcing someone to do something.

    Pedantically, coerce means to “persuade (an unwilling person) to do something by using force or threats”. I think that reduces the equation to “persuade or coerce” as the person remains unwilling but is now compliant from fear.

    And around here, mentioning the police to a Muslim may be erring on the side of threats of force *in the mind of the Muslim*. It's not that long since locally some completely innocent Muslims had a dozen armed coppers break into their house and shoot one of them. I doubt that many Muslims in Newham regard the police as good or even neutral actors.

  3. This brings back into question the whole business about different religions/races and how they communicate with what they call God and how they experience God communicating with them. Not all that long ago many more (rather than 'some' more) black people than white were sectioned due to being assessed as psychotic because of this problem. How can you determine whether someone is psychotic or having a genuine spirittual experience. I can't see any clear dividing line between them. There again there have always been people who do die when they say they will. The Inuit used to go out alone when they knew that their time had come, I don't know whether they still do or not – or if they do how the society they now live in regards this. People who are the subject of voodoo or other black magic intended to kill them also die, apparently whether they know about it or not. The danger is that if we are very deeply convinced psychologically that we are going to die we will. The man you attended could have been in that state.I think that you did the right thing.

    Happy New Year to you.

  4. “It's a bit of a stretch to go immediately from “I don't agree with your irrational beliefs” to “we think you are having a psychotic episode””Not really, just because he shares an belief with lots of other people doesn't mean he isn't a danger to himself.

    If I go to someone and he tells me that the voices in his head are telling him to die, then he is ill. If he is hallucinating then he is ill. Likewise if 'God' tells someone to kill themselves how is that *not* mental illness in the same way that if the Flying Spaghetti Monster telling someone to kill themselves is mental illness. Or the woman off the telly telling them to go out and kill people.

    Like most things in life, it's a continuum. We accept refusing blood products for religious reasons, but not suicide for the same reason. Or we accept the cultural practice of circumcision but not the similarly cultural female genital mutilation.

    It's part of my job to make decisions based on where I think people rest on that line. Sometimes it gets awkward, but I tend towards not leaving people at home to die.

    As for involving the police being a threat? Not really anything to do with me, and as you mention earlier not all Muslims think the same…

    Besides I was telling the truth and if you can think of a better way to deal with the situation in the future please let me know.

  5. What I find a bit worrying is that his wife was obviously happy to join him in his psychotic episode by believing that he would die that night. -Either that or she just always believes he is 100% right in everything he says. Which is also somewhat worrying.

  6. If his wife had believe in what he was saying was correct and if she believe in this version of life, then she would not have summoned help to change the path of events.So our Fru could not let the man stay and die, because the situation would have been very bad, as it would been said “Ambulance service lets a man of faith die”.People of any faith or none can and have done some impossible things, like allowing the “will” or allow life to quit or go on.The medical profession can tell you that “will power” can have many strange effects.One notice I read in an operating room said watch what you say as the sub-conscious can act on the information, and they have notice that when they are very positive over the outcome of a procedure and in reality it was very bad situation the patient would recover, when in reality the odds were in favour of terminating.There be many things to learn about the power of the mind and the will to survive and the desire to see what is beyond this life and world

  7. This has got me laughing out loud. Some people really need to get out more……….slightly worried about the flying spaghetti monster though…….is that tinned or home made?

  8. How dare you suggest that the most noodely one would be 'made'. He is and has always been.May you be touched by his noodely appendage.

    RAmen.

  9. Can we please just continue to treat these things as mental/chemical problems until God starts leaving calling cards that say “Do not resuscitate, it really is his time”?As for the police being seen as non neutral actors (your words) by muslims for a shooting… You do realise that this is one mistake, right? Tragic as it is, this event is a single point in history. Also, how is the possible belief of the Newham muslims that the police are whatever you were alluding to (possibly that they harm muslims whenever given the chance?) any different from the opposite side, the perception (by predominantly dumb people) that muslims are by default terrorists because a few misguided and violent people (who, by the way, often say they are carrying out God's will – in this case, I'm quite happy to assume they are dangerous and crazy) took London Transport while wearing bomb backpacks? These people killed over 50 people, and I don't treat the muslims in my area any different than i did before that day. Dont take one persons mistake as the norm for their demographic.

    All hail the All Powerful Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  10. Go back and read what I wrote again, especially the deliberately emphasised “in the mind of the Muslim”. That's a big hint that I'm talking about perceptions, not objective reality. A “single point in history”, to use your words, can and has easily affected the viewpoints of millions, even billions, of people. There's no law that says perceptions must be correct, accurate or helpful. In the context, “do X or I'll fetch Y” is either coercive or not depending on the addressees beliefs about whether Y is a threat to them or not. Thus in discussing possible coercion you have to take the perceptions of the potential coercee into account.

  11. > Likewise if 'God' tells someone to kill themselves how is that> *not* mental illness in the same way that if the Flying Spaghetti

    > Monster telling someone to kill themselves is mental illness.

    That's not what you told us. You said that he said that God had 'told' him he was going to die, not that God had told him to kill himself. [That sentence is just crying out for “yes, no, but,” a la Matt Lucas somewhere in it.] There's a big difference between “I think I'm going to die” and “I shall kill myself”. If he did say the latter then I'm all in favour of an emergency section, but it's not what you said.

    There's a difference between a religious person feeling that God 'told' them something and the hearing of voices. The 'hearing' of a “small still voice” is not the frank auditory hallucination of a psychotic. What's usually meant by folks who are that way inclined saying God 'told' them something is an event like “my bible/koran just fell open at XYZ and I felt that God was telling me to…”.

    Did you infer this man to be having frank hallucinations because he used a term like 'told' or did he actually describe frank hallucinations?

    > As for involving the police being a threat? Not really anything to do with me,

    I raised it because you sounded concerned about the issue of possible coercion. It's a debating point, not an accusation.

  12. “That's not what you told us. You said that he said that God had 'told' him he was going to die, not that God had told him to kill himself.”But then I mention that I was concerned that if 'God' fluffed it, then there was a reasonable chance of him taking things into his own hands. He was that convinced.

  13. Sometimes, and I emphasise sometimes, the police can get around this problem but arresting the person to prevent a breach of the peace, taking them outside and sectioning them there. Just something to bear in mind.

  14. Or if he's done this before and things got hairy.Or possibly, if “God is calling!” has been the interpretation of heart-attack-like-symptoms shortly before death for many generations in your family.

  15. mmm……spaghetti…..“And around here, mentioning the police to a Muslim may be erring on the side of threats of force *in the mind of the Muslim*. It's not that long since locally some completely innocent Muslims had a dozen armed coppers break into their house and shoot one of them.”

    Anyway there is a *very* thick line between a couple of coppers and the full amount of force of the police's CO19 squad bursting through the front door and you would hope that everybody would know the difference. I don't think that saying that you might get the police is forcing somebody because as long as they have not committed an offence the police aren't going to do anything to them

  16. I reckon you made overall good choices. The religio-politics can be sorted out at the hospital. His wife was distressed and he was spouting dodgy nonesense.I always check the 'risk' by predicting the headlines tomorrow :

    “Man left by FRU paramedic to kill himself” – the potential indicators were there; you were making nothing up and your actions did not incarcerate him for the rest of his life… but they may have given him the rest of his life.

  17. I suppose the outcome of the situation also depends on the belief of the FRU. If they believe in God, maybe the turn of events would have been different. I'm inclined to belie that he might have been having a psychotic episode. Talking about Do Not Resuscitate calling cards, I can't help thinking that maybe it should be an email?(Unless God isn't a silver surfer)

  18. The basic mantra for the UK ambulance services isTo Promote Recovery.

    Since dying is not viewed as recovery but living is I think you scored a 10/10.

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