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Irresponsible Journalism

Whitney, Jack MD; Park, Highland IL

doi: 10.1097/01.EEM.0000361680.21574.37

The author is the EMS Medical Director at Highland Park Hospital.


In reference to the July 2009 article, “Paramedics Accused of Molesting Patients” (EMN 2009;31[7]:1): What a tabloid-style headline! Such lurid journalism is not necessary in a purported “professional” health care publication. It seems the story relates to legislation that would prevent sex offenders from working as EMTs, but the headline and anecdotes that follow would suggest a significant problem of sexual assault perpetrated by paramedics. The author acknowledges that this is a rare instance by affirming, “by all accounts,” “such assaults are isolated incidents and don't constitute a major trend.”

Further, you cite Dr. Louise Andrew supporting the idea of objecting to such coverage as somehow compromising the public trust in EMTs. Well, Dr. Andrew, health care professionals could have been inserted in the title of the article — “Physicians Accused of Molesting Patients,” “Nurses Accused of Molesting Patients”— because the author fails to state that these incidents are isolated, yet occur across all health care professions. The author focuses on the EMS professional, and then suggests later this type of journalism might be exaggerated.

The body of the article starts with legislation in Texas attempting to close a loophole allowing sex offenders into the EMS profession. The article then makes the assumption that EMTs have a poor image and lack bedside manner. The author then tries to somehow tie all this together with the statistic that “EMS team members are more like police officers in mortality risk for traumatic events.” To what is she alluding, and what does this statement have to do with the substance of the story?

The only sober point by this author: Screening EMS-trained professionals, like all health care professionals, is imperative. Screening should be a mandated responsibility of the employer just like any other health care professional. The author could have made that statement in one paragraph. This is an example of irresponsible, fragmented, sensational journalism at best.

Jack Whitney, MD

Highland Park, IL

The author is the EMS Medical Director at Highland Park Hospital.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.