Two Denver, Colorado firefighters who pronounced a woman dead, despite her still being alive, were suspended without pay this week.
Fox station KDVR in Denver reported that the city’s department of public safety issued an order of disciplinary action, stating firefighter Marshall Henry helped the Denver Police Department on June 24 to check on the welfare of a woman who had not been heard from for five days.
When police arrived, an officer entered the home and found the woman, described to have bluish-purple skin, fluid leaking and smelling of decomposition.
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Fire Department Lieutenant Patrick Lopez was on the scene and provided a statement in the order. He said when the officers returned from the home, they said, “You do not need to go inside; I don’t want any of you filling out a witness statement today. She is obviously dead.”
Henry overheard the information and was given orders from Lopez to call the Denver Health Medical Center Emergency Department to obtain a field pronouncement of death, according to the order.
At that point, nobody from the Denver Fire Department had performed a patient assessment on the woman, KDVR reported.
The officer never told fire crews not to go into the home, the order explained, but instead the officer said when her returned from the home assessment he saw the firefighters obtaining a field pronouncement over the phone.
When Lopez handed Henry the phone, the line was ringing and when the emergency department personnel answered, Henry told the doctor as being in “an advanced state of death” which was verified by police.
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“The doctor asked clarifying questions about the patient’s condition and Henry deliberately misrepresented himself to the doctor as being next to the patient and as having performed a patient assessment,” the Department of Safety said in the disciplinary action document.
Ultimately, the doctor issued a pronouncement of time and death.
But when a DPD officer went back inside the home to assess the scene, the woman was moving. Firefighters returned to the scene and transported her to the hospital, according to the order.
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As a result, Henry, who realized his mistake and confessed to his chief that he never did a visual or physical exam on the woman, was suspended for 10 shifts without pay.
Lopez was demoted from lieutenant to firefighter and suspended for 14 days without pay.