Whistleblower Files Suit Claiming Atlanticare Covered Up Wrongdoing by Doctors
A paramedic is suing his former employer, Atlanticare, for wrongful termination from employment under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act. Atlanticare fired the paramedic after he failed to administer a procedure ordered by a doctor after the patient refused the treatment.
On February 28, 2016 the paramedic responded to a call for emergency medical services made by the patient’s husband. The patient had contracted MRSA while at an Atlanticare hospital five years earlier and had been treating it holistically, with Ayurvedic and Naturopathy practices, ever since. The patient had deep convictions about the use of natural healing and avoided standard Western medical practices whenever possible. However, when her condition worsened, at the persuasion of her husband, they called for emergency medical treatment.
The paramedic in question was part of the response team to arrive at the patient’s home. After being unable to properly administer an IV injection, he called the Atlanticare Medical Command Unit where he spoke to a doctor who instructed him to install an Intraosseous device (IO) for an infusion of dextrose.
The law requires a patient be given the option to accept or decline any treatment after having the procedure clearly explained, so long as the patient is lucid enough to make such decisions. This is called ‘informed consent’. After the paramedic explained the procedure to the patient, she refused.
The paramedic believes that if he had followed the doctor’s orders and disregarded the patient’s refusal, he would have been in violation of law. The paramedic accompanied the patient and her husband to the Atlanticare Medical Center by ambulance transport. Upon arrival, the paramedic was confronted as to why he had not proceeded with the doctor’s direction. The paramedic informed the medical staff that the patient had refused the procedure. The hospital refutes that the patient was in a state of mind to lucidly give informed consent.
According to the paramedic, the lab work performed at the hospital later revealed that, because the patient’s hemoglobin count was so low, saline administered in the field could have been fatal. Further, since her blood sugar level was normal there was no need by the paramedic to administer dextrose. In short, the paramedic claims that not only did he not have the patient’s consent to perform the IO, the IO procedure was not required, indeed, proved to be contraindicated.
The patient’s family was appalled to learn that the paramedic was fired. Her husband supports the paramedic’s claim that the patient was indeed coherent and capable of giving informed consent. Furthermore, he finds the decision to fire the paramedic without first collecting statements or gathering more information on the necessity and potential repercussions of the treatment from those who were involved is rash and unprofessional.
The case is being handled jointly by Philip Burnham of Burnham Law Group, LLC and Michelle Douglass of Douglass Law Group. The jury trial is set to begin in May before the Honorable James P. Savio, State Superior Court, Atlantic County.