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Lack of compassion was the crime

Updated: Feb 1, 2023



I am sincerely honored that this blog post was picked up and published by EMS1. To have such an audience for my simple thoughts is truly exciting.




The week began with the Memphis Fire Department firing members of Engine 55 for violating numerous policies and protocols during Tyre Nichols’ arrest.



According to the Fire Department, Engine 55 was dispatched to the scene, and when arrived Tyre was on the ground in handcuffs leaning against a police car.


The result of the investigation by the Fire Department was that the EMTs, who were called for a person being pepper sprayed, failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment on Tyre ... and after their initial interaction with him, they requested an ambulance, which got there about 15 minutes after EMTs arrived. During this 15 minutes, they gave no other treatment to Tyre.


EMS protocols are the recognized operating procedures that all emergency medical service professionals, such as paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) must follow for patient assessment, treatment, transportation and delivery to definitive care. This is a national standard, not a standard set by local authorities or merely adhered to by individual departments.


EMS protocols are designed by national, state and local medical authorities and institutions. They are reviewed regularly and revised according to new assessment tools and treatments. When protocols are revised, updated and amended, they are published and distributed to all emergency medical services providers within the jurisdiction. It is the ongoing responsibility of the EMS departments to train all of their providers on the revised protocols.



COMPASSION is not a protocol.


Compassion is something that emanates from a true EMT and is obviously apparent on a scene no matter what the situation.


Compassion sets the EMT apart from others at the scene and prevents the EMT from including judgement or opinion into their care of the patient.


Compassion is what causes an EMT to never see a “suspect” but rather filters the picture allowing them to only see a “patient”.


Compassion drives an EMT to push past the surrounding noise and chaos in order to reach the patient.


Compassion pushes the EMT to provide the best care possible for as long as possible no matter what the suspected or expected outcome may be.


Compassion is what generates the energy to treat a patient for great lengths of time despite any sign that the effort is pointless.


Compassion reminds the EMT that pain is unpleasant and that being in pain is an emotional experience and not just a physical experience.


Compassion reminds an EMT that pain can cause physiologic responses that can have negative effects on the body and that it is the directive of EMS to provide release from that emotional aspect of pain.


Compassion releases kindness from the heart, mind and mouth of the EMT in such a manner that the treatment becomes a ministry of kindness and not just medical care.


These members of the Memphis Fire Department do not represent the nation’s 240,000+ EMTs and I doubt that they ever did. Compassion causes someone to become an EMT. It is not learned. It is not from training. It is not directed by others.


The night that Tyre encountered Memphis law enforcement has been (thanks to unbelievable video) forever seared into our brains. The names of those that hurt Tyre and the names of those that neglected to care for him will soon be forgotten as it should be.


As we move forward, we should appreciate the thousands of EMTs driven by compassion each and every day, but perhaps those in administrative positions should begin to assess those they direct and determine if they should be there to begin with.


The law will make its case and training, protocols and procedures will be thrown about the courtrooms, but the real truth is that these men and women failed to be compassionate which means they were not operating as EMTs to begin with.


A million thanks to the true EMTs out there.


There is no law that says an EMT needs to be compassionate but there should be.

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