A paramedic refused to resuscitate a man he had been sent to treat and then lied to police and bosses to cover his tracks, a jury was told yesterday.
Karl Harris, 45, told his less experienced colleague that there was “no point” in trying to save 420-pound Barry Baker, who had collapsed at home. Baker, 59, who lived alone in Brighton, East Sussex, dialed 999 because he was having breathing difficulties one morning in November 2008. He died after suffering cardiopulmonary arrest.
Opening the case for the prosecution at Lewes Crown Court, Richard Barton told jurors that, unknown to Harris and the trainee paramedic technician, Ben Stokes, the emergency operator had stayed on the line after they arrived at the house and heard that they had not attempted resuscitation.
The jury was played a recording of the emergency call in which Baker’s labored breathing could be heard. Harris and Stokes reached the house six minutes later and spoke to him.
Shortly afterwards a loud thump was audible, which Barton said was Baker falling to the ground.
Harris’s comments to his colleague could not be heard, but Barton said that he told him: “He’s dead. There’s no point [in resuscitating him]. I’ve seen this before. It’s not a viable resuscitation. Don’t bother.”
Jurors then heard the call that Harris made to police to ask them to attend the scene, in which he said that Baker was already collapsed when they arrived.
“There’s not a lot we can do really,” he was heard to say. Describing the house as in a “right old state”, he told police that Baker’s body was wedged between books and CDs and could not be moved by him and Stokes, 35, alone.
It is the Crown’s case that Karl Harris didn’t act in accordance with his qualifications and his experience, and contrary to all of that he omitted to resuscitate a patient whom he ought to have tried to resuscitate,” Barton said.
“It is the Crown’s case that having done that, in order to cover up his omissions, he told lies to the police officers that attended the scene,” he said.
“He repeated those lies to his bosses that night and he went on to falsify paperwork in order to cover up what he had done,” he said.
Barton said that it was not alleged that Harris caused Baker’s death, as medical evidence suggested that he would not have survived anyway.
“But it is the Crown’s case that this defendant simply could not have known that at the time, and this conduct was effectively extinguishing any last chance of survival.” He said that guidelines applying to ambulance clinicians state that “vigorous resuscitation attempts must be undertaken whenever there is a chance of survival, however remote,” he added.
If a patient collapses, these attempts should last for about 20 minutes before it can be decided that he or she is dead.
Harris, from Portslade, Brighton, was suspended from his job at South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Trust after Baker’s death.
He denies perverting the course of justice. The trial continues.