The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 38.0°F | A Few Clouds and Breezy


Medical Transport Done Right

Guest Column
Josiah D. Seale

As at most universities, at-risk behavior occurs from time to time in MIT’s dormitories, fraternities, sororities and independent living groups. Currently, all of our EMTs are Campus Police officers: while they can effectively save the lives of students needing the first response of EMTs, they cannot cease to be police officers while on duty.

Thus, the immediate risk of sanctions for a number of violations (e.g., providing alcohol to minors, underage possession and consumption of alcohol) at times causes members of living groups to “wait and see” if a person needs an EMT response, when under other circumstances an ambulance would be called without hesitation.

When speaking with Ben Hinson, president of the American Ambulance Association, I explained our current policy to him. He stated that our current policy is “insane” and stated a case, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where it was shown that combined police/EMTs are ineffective. According to him, for EMTs to be effective, they “have to be the good guys.”

He continued, explaining in other words that our CPs may certainly be competent EMTs. However, the fact that they place the GRTs, RAs, living groups and outsiders at the risk of legal sanctions, as well as the individuals in question, means that people are less likely to call upon them in the event of an emergency.

This creates a dilemma for those of us of the UA. We believe in supporting and endorsing only behavior that conforms to the laws of common sense. However, it is our opinion that those who fail to behave in such a manner should not suffer a detrimental physical injury as a result. We are of the opinion that if someone is in need of medical care, this should not be detained by fear of immediate adverse consequences, either to an individual or to all or part of a living group.

The likelihood that a student needing EMT attention would actually receive such attention must be increased. Also, by knowingly maintaining a system that has been demonstrated to be of poor quality in other instances, the Institute places itself in a legally liable position.

We do not propose that students not be held responsible for their actions. If an outside emergency medical service (such as Professional Ambulance) determines that they are legally obligated to report an action to the authorities, then by all means we support them. There are many cases, such as sexual assault, where it is clear whether the intervention of law enforcement officers is necessary. The hospital would also be required to report such cases, thus providing a double assurance that necessary cases would be reported.

However, given that these institutions are much more familiar with maintaining confidentiality, and only disclose information at their discretion and/or at the request of a lawyer, it also allows a double assurance that the privacy of the members of the MIT community will be protected to the utmost.

We therefore request that the MIT administration implement a system whereby members of its community may be transported to a medical facility without making public their personal information. It is our suggestion that this be done by modification of our current agreement with Professional Ambulance, to allow students to request them directly when requesting medical transport. Professional Ambulance may also determine whether or not the capabilities of MIT Medical are sufficient for the case in question, and take them to the closest appropriate facility.

Josiah D. Seale, a member of the Class of 2002, is co-chair of the UA Committee on Student Life. A version of this column was sent as a letter to Dean for Student Life Larry Benedict.