Let ’em Die

There has been talk for years now about how blogging will kill off 'mainstream' media (MSM) like newspapers – I'm yet to see it happen. After all the benefits of a newspaper and the organisation behind it are obvious, they have people who go out looking for news while a large amount of 'news' blogging is repeating and commenting on stories put out by commercial media websites.

The strength of this commenting culture is that 'experts' on the story being discussed can weigh in where the journalist originally writing the story may only have limited knowledge of the subject involved. An example of this would be where I discuss an ambulance story that is currently in the news.

Mainstream media should do what it does best, research around stories, find experts to corroborate what they believe is happening and provide well thought out copy. Unlike many bloggers they should have the resources and, most importantly, time, to fully round out a story.

Of course it doesn't always work like that.

Paramedics told: 'Let accident victims die if they want to' in new row over patient rights

Health Service paramedics have been told not to resuscitate terminally-ill patients who register on a controversial new database to say they want to die.

It has been set up by the ambulance service in London for hundreds of people who have only a few months to live so that they may register their 'death wishes' in advance.

…and so it goes – while I have linked to the Daily Mail, this story appeared all across the media, for example 'This is London' is especially crazy. I have no idea where this story originated, I suspect a pro-life organisation issued a press release and the various journalists jumped on it as an 'interesting' story.

Of course, the truth didn't enter into it.

So it was up to the LAS to respond, and so they issued this release,

Reports in the media today (17 April) about the resuscitation of patients involved in serious accidents are misleading.

We have a system whereby patients with longer-term or complicated medical conditions can ask for a specific treatment to be carried out if we are called to them, or for them to be taken to a preferred place of care.

These are a very small number of patients who we will normally attend at home and with whom a written agreement is in place. It is inaccurate to suggest that this approach would be taken with patients involved in serious accidents.

These agreements are often used to give guidance to our staff on how to proceed with treatment in very complicated clinical cases.

They document what the patient’s requirements and wishes are and may refer, for example, to places of care, preferred treatment options, do not resuscitate advice, and home care requirements.

These details are kept in a secure database which can be accessed by our control room staff. This information can then be passed on to staff attending patients at the addresses on our system.

The ambulance crew will then be able to provide the most appropriate care to the patient taking into account the details kept on our records about their wishes and clinical needs.

There are currently 1,624 patients with their details registered on our system.

But, of course, the retractions weren't exactly forthright. The damage had been done and with no real right to reply, I suspect that a few of our patient's have been looking at ambulance staff in a different light.

That isn't the point, the point is that the journalists writing this story could have easily found out the truth, that we aren't going to go to a car crash and refuse to resuscitate someone, that we aren't bringing in 'death wristbands' and that, in fact, of the 1,624 people on the treatment database the only a few are 'do not resuscitate orders.

I'd guess that the majority of the people on this database are only on it because they suffer from sickle cell crisis and the database has their preferred hospital on it.

In the case of 'do not resuscitate' orders, it is not the ambulance service that initiates these things, it is the patient's GP and the team at the hospital – we just get informed of these decisions due to their need for ambulance transport to hospital.

Where patients have complex conditions the details often state what treatments are, and are not, recommended for the patient. We have a few on my patch, mostly children with severe medical conditions.


While I might expect such lurid headlines and misrepresentation of the facts from a blogger (because we don't always have the time to research something we are writing on account of our 'day jobs'), I would have hoped for better from people who are paid to write these things.

The newspapers should stick to what they can do best, fully researched stories and information gathered with the money and time that these organisations have. They should stop printing press releases as if they were facts in an effort to fill column inches of come up with the most lurid story that they can.


Oh, and swine 'flu? I'm not panicking over it, and I try to have forty days worth of tinned food in my house at all times in case of an actual serious pandemic.

The LAS has issued utterly sensible advice to it's staff that I suspect we will ignore.

The advice is to leave the patient at home if the symptoms aren't too serious and contact the patient's GP. However most ambulance crews are aware that if the patient then drops dead (of something completely unrelated) it will be the roadstaff's fault and we'd end up risking our job not taking them to hospital. After all, we aren't doctors, so how do we know who we can leave at home? How can we predict who will have a cytokine storm?

Nope – if this does go pandemic I predict A&E waiting rooms full of people with 'flu who make their own way there if the ambulance refuses to take them, all crying out for anti-virals. Then medical staff will get sick and some folks will die because of that rather than from the 'flu itself.

But that won't make the headlines – what will make the headlines will be the death from 'flu, someone who would have died from any 'flu.

And of course, once the storm has settled NHS management will start disciplining those who had the temerity to catch the 'flu themselves and go sick…

(erm… the title of this post has nothing to do with this section about 'flu, just in case you thought I was wishing for some sort of 'humanity die-off' from the 'flu).

12 thoughts on “Let ’em Die”

  1. Not found a good reason to panic yet and can not be bothered to go to the hassle of finding a reason.The majority of deaths are in a 3rd world country with appalling health care and living conditions for the poor who l am guessing are the bulk of the dead.

    It is probably about the same as the flu that we get every year around the world. And most of the people around the rest of the world appear to recover.

    The term pandemic is being banded around in horror but it only means a widespread infection. The fact that there are often deaths are incidental to the actual meaning of the word. (sorry bit pedantic today)

    With regards to DNR l remember hearing about a retired nurse in usa that had do not resuscitate tattooed over her chest along with l think a phone number to call and confirm, as she had a serious heart problem. A bit extreme but effective. 🙂

  2. “Nope – if this does go pandemic I predict A&E waiting rooms full of people with 'flu who make their own way there if the ambulance refuses to take them, all crying out for anti-virals. Then medical staff will get sick and some folks will die because of that rather than from the 'flu itself.”If anything is going to cause problems it will be this, full waiting rooms and no staff cause we are sick too.

  3. The purpose of Newspapers is not to inform but to sell Newspapers. If the headline had read 'Patients rights and wishes respected, no change in NHS policy' no one would have read it. The same goes for Swine flu. 'Thousands die over the course of the year from annual flu out break' will sell no newspapers.Only twice have I heard on the media that the UK is in fact, along with France, the most prepared country in the world when it comes to dealing with a pandemic….Newspapers only really ever had two uses, the first has been replaced by plastic boxes and plain paper they now serve chips in and the second largely disappered with outside toilets and the arrival of soft toilet paper.

  4. I think that having a database with all this stuff on would be great.As for the swine flu epidemic it seems like SJA have been put on alert for it. What do they expect us to do? Say there there have a tissue?

  5. Fully agree Tom, reprinting is not reporting. Then again, a very small part of what the MSM do these days could be considered anything close to reporting anyway, most of it is simply drivel.You neglect to tell us what your Zombie plan actually is mate? Mine basically consists of armfuls of shotguns, liberating a Land Rover dealership, a quick Dale Winton special at the local Tesco all wrapped up with a trip to Bovington Tank Museum. I highly doubt Zombies can get though the armour on a Tiger. Lol

  6. There's about 2500 people dying from malaria every day, and about 5000 dying from aids. (Googled figures, any inaccuracy is mine) I'll worry more when aids decides to go airborne.I think I'll stock up on Beechams.

    And there's a few newspapers I wouldn't wrap my chips in. May they remain nameless.

  7. Re the swine flu. Here in New Zealand we are nervous too. My son came back from the USA on Saturday. On Sunday he went to a large event. On Sunday evening he heard on the news that a party on the plane he was on were returning from Mexico and had contracted the swine flu and that the Public Health department was contacting all the people on the plane. On Monday we phoned Public Health to say that he had been on the plane, he felt fine and should he go to school. I aslo asked if I should go to work as I work in a hospital setting.Eventually he was told to stay at home in “voluntary quarantine” until Friday and I was told to go to work. He was given Tamiflu. We now hear that a prescription is no longer required for Tamiflu but people have to go to the pharmacist in person exhibiting flu symptons to get it. The Public Health instructions are to stay in if you have flu or flu like symptons so as not to spread the disease.

    Seems to me the media are having a field day spreading hysteria, won't be fun for you Ambulance people. While people are busy worrying about this it seems at the moment we are more likely to die crossing the road. What surprises me I suppose is the dissonance between what the news channels say and reality (another of your points I agree with Tom) and also the way the action being taken looks like if there really is a pandemic it will increase rather than decrease the infection rate.

  8. The newspapers should stick to what they can do best, fully researched stories and information gathered with the money and time that these organisations have.

    You're not serious, are you? When I got out of journalism several years ago, it was because editorial budgets had been cut to the bone. Salaries were poor, resourcing was minimal and staff numbers were well below the number needed to do the job, much less do it properly. And it's even worse now.

    At the last newspaper I worked on, the computers were more than 10 years old and broke regularly, the printing press was 50 years old and broke regularly, the handful of cars were 10-15 years old and broke regularly, and so on.

    Journalists were expected to do most of their work via the phone, using press releases as the basis, as it was more “cost effective”.

    When the management cocked up the budget due to miscalculations, we were still expected to deliver the profit they'd forecasteven though staffing in some departments had gone from 12 down to 3.

    Few modern news organisations make time or money available to their staff. The aim is to rip as much money out as possible and then increase that amount the following year.

    I was even told at one point that processing news is no different to processing baked beans or sausages. Well, if the quality of our output (despite our best efforts) was anything to go by, I'd hate to eat baked beans or sausages made in the same way.

  9. Where…apart from in the headline…does the inference come from saying that we will not resus at accidents?Piss poor, lazy reporting. All the press seem to do lately is sensationalise everything as it sells copy. Bollocks to the troops on the shop floor who have to go through the tirade of abuse from ill informed punters!

  10. Good post. What is that William Randold Hirst quote… “News is something somebody doesn't want printed; all else is advertising.” or similar?Newspapers exist to sell copies and go with it. Even the more sensible broadsheets have been finding ways to panic the public with this Novel Flu thing.

    My favourite habbit of late, when the topic comes up in conversation, is to predict that around 10,000 people will die of flu in the UK this year. Everybody looks shocked and either panics or accuses me of scaremongering… but according to NHS figures that's roughly how many people have died of flu in the UK every year for the past eight years, so the likelihood is 10,000 will die this year too; only this year it is 'news'.

    Cytokine storms interest me. I have a condition which research suggests involves cytokine toxicity and over-active immune response. I am curious as to how flu (any flu) will affect people with this condition, as I know a lot of them can't even have the annual flu jab because of the immune reaction from it. My curiosity is mainly academic, as I'm not especially the worrying kind (aside from zombies, obviously), but it's frustrating I can't ask any medical professionals about my wonderings without looking like a complete hypochondriac *sigh*.

  11. The police has the same problem with media coverage and we never really fight back either. We have the added constant risk whereby the actions of one over-enthusiastic public order officer can somehow make the entire 35,000-strong service look like a bunch of wild, blood-thirsty nutcases. I imagine that any large organisation will have its fair share of wild, blood-thirsty nutcases but most of us really aren't!I loved your book, by the way. There's one by a police officer (not Met) called Wasting Police Time. Well worth a read.

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