The recent news splash about two Las Vegas firefighters who mistakenly declared a patient dead is a painful lesson on the consequences of complacency. The patient, who had shot himself in the head, was found alive by the coroner after responding firefighter/EMTs called off an ALS unit, deciding the patient was deceased. He survived for two days after finally being treated and transported to the ED.
There are multiple opportunities in the Fire service to end up on CNN. Death pronouncements, or mis-pronouncements as happened in this case, provide tremendous opportunity for a couple of folks to make themselves and their entire department look like idiots.
Deciding that death has occurred is a big deal. Every time it happens, the folks involved need to consider the consequences of being wrong. In my April 2007 FireRescue1.com article about field pronouncements, I discussed what needs to be done by departments and individual firefighters to prevent this sort of embarrassment. The news media is reminding us: it's time for a review!