Coroner condemns paramedics who refused to save drowning man in ditch ‘for health and safety reasons‘. This is the heading of an article appearing in the UK Mail Online from 18 July.

It appears that the paramedics refused to enter water to try and rescue the injured man, with the result that he drowned. The Coroner is reported as saying ‘I was brought up in a country where men risked their own lives to save the lives of others. That was a period in our history which has almost ceased. I do praise the actions of Pc Day, who dived in, but by that stage it was too late.’

We can and do make hero’s of emergency responders who risk their lives to save others, but there does have to be some point where the risk is too great and trying to save the life of one does not warrant risking the lives of others. We cannot know from this distance, what the ‘right’ decision was but it is heartening to note that the ambulance authority agrees that the paramedics made the right decision. There also appears to be some confusion that the first emergency service on the scene is there to do all the work required, which simply cannot be the case. The paramedics we can assume, were trained to deliver advanced life support to those that need it, not to rescue people from a ditch ‘5ft, with knee-deep mud at the bottom’, any more than a fire brigade is there to rescue someone from a cliff when there is a cliff rescue unit to be called (see ‘Legal confusion leads to unnecessary death’) or that the police at a fire are there to extinguish the fire (see Eburn, M.,‘Emergency services and health and safety’ (2012) 8(1) Crisis Response 10-13).

It does not appear that the Coroner’s report is available online so I can’t comment on the precise facts or the Coroner’s finding. The law does not however, require that the government save everyone that can be saved. It appears this man died because his friend was two times over the legal blood alcohol limit and drove the car off the road.

Michael Eburn
26 July 2013