Published January 14, 2015
A 42-year-old woman from Fulton, N.Y., died while being transported in an ambulance, and her daughter claims it’s the paramedic’s fault, Syracuse.com reported.
Police reports say officials responded to a suicide attempt at the home of an aggressive and hallucinating Dorothy Caniff in May 2006, so her hands were placed in handcuffs behind her back for protection to herself.
When Menter Ambulance workers arrived, they strapped Caniff face down on the gurney, according to police reports.
On the way to the hospital, Caniff suffered cardiac arrest in the ambulance and was pronounced dead when she arrived at the emergency room. A medical examiner at A.L. Lee Memorial Hospital ruled the cause of death was from the position Caniff was lying on the gurney: arms behind her back, face down.
Caniff’s daughter, Crystal Blake, said she did not find out until months later that her mother’s death was accidental from positional asphyxia. Positional asphyxia is a death due to a person’s position making the chest unable to rise enough to take in air.
“Someone suffocated my mom,” said Blake, 25, who is suing Menter Ambulance Service over the conduct of its two emergency medical technicians.
Blake’s lawyer, Michael Kenny, said the way the paramedics placed Caniff on the gurney was in violation of state protocols for EMTs. Protocols for basic life support say that patients should be restrained on their side or back in order for EMTs to monitor the airway.
Menter Ambulance’s owner, Zach Menter, said his employees were not the ones who placed Caniff face down.
“All I can say is that’s how she was placed — not by us,” Menter said.
Caniff, who was a longtime smoker, suffered from emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a condition that increases difficulty in breathing. She’d been on oxygen for almost two years, according to her daughter.