Bioethics Blogs

Absence of POLST Leads to Criminal Charges

Two New York Fire Department paramedics have been arrested for failing to resuscitate a man on Staten Island.

Daniel Ornstein and Joseph Farrell were responding to a “difficulty breathing” call.  The man, who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s Disease, was in cardiac arrest.  

But the man’s wife became upset, stating that he had a DNR, order, and didn’t want to be brought back to life.  The paramedics sympathized with the patient’s wife, even though she could not find the DNR paperwork (only health care proxy paperwork which paramedics aren’t allowed to accept).

Nevertheless, the paramedics (falsely) wrote in official reports that they administered an endotracheal tube and administered intravenous medications.  The man was ultimately pronounced dead.

Both men are charged with first- and second-degree offering a false instrument for filing, and second-degree falsifying business records.  They were arraigned and released on their own recognizance.

If the man had a physical POLST or one registered in a POLST registry, this might have been avoided.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.