Saturday, April 06, 2013

Deja Vu Trans EMS Death In New York?

In 1995 I was horrified to hear the story of 24 year old Washington DC trans woman Tyra Hunter, who died at the hands of a transphobic EMT and a doctor who let their transphobia override their obligation and duty to provide medical care in her hour of need.

Once again I'm stunned to hear about another case happening in which a New York EMS technician is alleged to have not done his duty and allowed a trans woman to die after going into diabetic shock.

This case happened back on June 15, 2012 in New York, but we're just now hearing about what happened to 30 year old Shaun Smith because her mother Jenette Cox has filed a lawsuit alleging that EMS responders let her child die because she was trans. .

Smith started her transition and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in 2010.  She purchased estrogen, progesterone and spironolactone online and was taking them without consulting a physician.

It is alleged that after Smith complained of shortness of breath to her mother, Cox told Smith she would get her sneakers so they could go to the emergency room.  When Cox returned she found Smith unresponsive and called 911.  The ambulance arrived on the scene 10 minutes later, the EMS responders took Smith's pulse but said there was nothing they could do, according to Cox. 

Cox repeatedly asked why they were not trying to revive Smith. "They didn’t even open their equipment to try to work on him,” said Cox in the interview with the Sheepshead Bites blog. “They didn’t do nothing for my son.”

The EMS responders declared Smith dead at 4:42 AM EDT.  Court papers state Smith, who had no history of diabetes, died of diabetic ketoacidosis, which results from a shortage of insulin.

“This is somebody who needed urgent care and didn’t get it, and basically what stopped them were breasts on an originally male body,” said Ilya Novofastovsky, the attorney representing Cox in the malpractice and discrimination case against the NYPD and the FDNY, which operates the EMS.

Novofastovsky said discrimination against transgender people by emergency responders and medical workers is a nationwide problem that causes a delay or absence of care, and leads to additional suffering and even death for the patient.

Novofastovsky and Cox also named Harlem Hospital in their lawsuit, which Smith checked into on December 2011, complaining about a headache from having taken “too many diet pills,” according to the hospital report.  The medical report includes the hormones that Smith was taking at the time.

Novofastovsky alleges the hospital was also discriminatory in caring for Smith, having sent her to the mental health clinic rather than given medical care, where they might have discovered the onset of diabetes.

He points to the report from the visit, which diagnosis Smith with an “unspecified, drug induced mental disorder.”

I've written about medical transphobia and the stories of trans people who have had less than pleasant experiences not only accessing health care, but with first responders or medical personnel.  This isn't the first time less than respectful treatment of transpeople by first responders has happened in the Big Apple as this  ugly November 24,1998 incident involving transwoman Jolea Lamot bears witness to. 

It also points to the fact there is an ongoing need for Trans 101 education and training across all sectors for the medical community from medical and nursing schools to first responders and medical assistants in order to avoid another Tyra Hunter incident that could unnecessarily cost another transperson their life. 

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