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What rights do parents have in a child's medical emergency?

By: Tim Johnston Email
By: Tim Johnston Email

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - It's a story that had many people talking on WKYT.com and on our station Facebook page. We first told you Tuesday night about a Lincoln County mother is furious that her daughters were airlifted to UK Hospital for what turned out to be minor injuries. She claimed the paramedic made the decision against her wishes.

"He would not listen to me, and then he told my brother I didn't have call, he had say," said Sally Pittman, who said she wanted her daughters taken to a hospital in nearby Danville.

The paramedic says he doesn't remember that, instead he defended his choice to fly the injured to Lexington.

"There is not a pediatric trauma center here," explained paramedic Troy Cain, "I felt that they needed to go somewhere that they could receive the appropriate care."

The issue seems to be split, and many question why go against a paramedic?

Sally Pittman didn't see it that way, she simply said that if it was as serious as it was being made out to be, then why did her daughters wait nearly an hour to be airlifted?

"They're only 15 minutes from the hospital! Why couldn't they go take the ambulance to hospital, if they were as bad as they were saying they (were)?"

So what rights do patients, and in this case parents of patients, have?

As it turns out, the rules back her up to an extent.

"The parent is the ultimate guardian of that patient," stated Mike Poynter, the Executive Director of the Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services.

Poynter has been a paramedic for 30 years and was a flight paramedic for nearly 20. He knows the drama that unfolds on the scene.

"Your decision process is through your training and your experience," he said.

While Poynter said it's a patient's right to refuse treatment, he also explained that every situation is not exactly a black-and-white issue.

"If the parent is not there, then it's considered 'implied consent,' that the patient wants and needs to go to the care facility," said Poynter, adding that as long as the adult patient is competent, coherent, and not incapacitated then they have the final say.

Same goes for the parent of an injured child.

However, Poynter is clear, he's not here to second guess six year paramedic Troy Cain's decision.

"That's not my position or place to second guess somebody out in the field," he answered, elaborating that he wasn't on the scene and didn't see what the paramedic saw.

Poynter expressed that the patient has the choice, but he also went on to say that the paramedics, that rush to the victim's side, are always trained to have the patient's needs above the rest.

The Kentucky Board of EMS regulates and even investigates EMS related incidents. At this time, they do not have a complaint filed for this case.


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