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Doc refused to aid dying man: 'I don't know why'

Published: 07 Jun 2012 08:24 GMT+02:00
Updated: 07 Jun 2012 08:24 GMT+02:00

A doctor who told the wife of an 87-year-old man who had no pulse to "go home and call emergency services" has no explanation for why he refused to help, despite his clinic being a mere 50 metres from the home of the man, who subsequently died.

Back in April, the man's wife returned home to the apartment outside Stockholm she shared with her husband of 45 years and found her 87-year-old husband sitting on a chair.

"I said, 'Why are you sitting there?' but got no answer. I went over and felt for a pulse, but couldn't find one," the man's wife told the Aftonbladet newspaper.

"I panicked and acted on instinct and ran down to the local health clinic."

But when the woman arrived at the clinic and found a doctor, 59-year-old Hans Hartelius, he refused to help the woman.

"I ran up to him and told him my husband was dying and needed help. He simply said, 'That's too bad.'," the man's wife explained.

Instead of rushing to the aid of the dying man, Hartelius told the distraught wife to go home and dial the 112 emergency number.

But when paramedics arrived, they were unable to revive the man, determining the 87-year-old man had likely died from a heart attack or stroke.

While it remains unclear whether Hartelius could have saved the 87-year-old man, the way his wife was treated has left the woman's daughter, Sara Holmström Gallego, irate.

"Mum could have at least avoided going through the trauma by herself. She had to try to move him to the floor to resuscitate him," Holmström Gallego told the paper.

"Maybe the doctor could have saved a life, but instead he went home to celebrate Walpurgis."

The head of the clinic admitted that Hartelius acted inappropriately when he refused to help the 87-year-old and told Aftonbladet the incident will likely be reported to health authorities.

Hartelius remains on duty pending the outcome of the matter, which he called "regrettable".

"I was stressed and on my way home. But I don't know why I did what I did," he told the paper.

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Your comments about this article

09:08 June 7, 2012 by chazza
I know why... swedes outsourced their compassion to others years ago.

why should a doctor be inconvenienced outside a fixed appointment when there is a govt. dept.to deal with such things.

Disgusting but not surprising to me :-( I hope the law of karma gets that doctor
09:15 June 7, 2012 by Pojken
Yes. Swedes have no compassion whatsoever. Terrible country. (You lived in any other country? Seriously?)
10:29 June 7, 2012 by bourgeoisieboheme
Isolated incident I would say. How often do you hear of people getting hit by a car in Asia and people just walk around a body for an hour. Or in the US someone getting mugged and beat and people watch. Sad this woman had to go through this and I feel this doctor should lose his job as it goes against the Hippocratic Oath.
11:17 June 7, 2012 by Tennin
This man is a doctor, helping people and saving lives is part of his job. Looks like he forgot about that, and it's time for him to change careers. I feel for the lady as she went for help and was told basically to F off.
11:28 June 7, 2012 by krrodman
As a physician, I would like to comment on this story. It is sad and unfortunate that this doctor didn't help this poor woman. I would like to think that anyone - doctor, lawyer, carpenter, neighbor, whatever - would have returned to her home to help out in any way possible, even if that help consisted of nothing more than providing some emotional support. This doctor is an as*hole of a human being.

That said, resuscitating a patient is a very specialized skill. I am certain that a doctor working in a clinic does not have those skills. (and no, taking a BLS/ACLS class does not make a person an expert in resuscitation.) In addition, he would not have the most basic tools available to him to resuscitate a patient except to initiate BLS. I would dare to say that emergency services personnel who routinely resuscitate patients in the field are more skilled at the art of resuscitation than most physicians. It is a skill that they practice routinely. He should have called emergency services himself and then gone over to help in any way possible. That would have been the human thing to do.

@bourgeoisieboheme

The Hippocratic Oath. Have you read it? Are you aware that it says many things including, quite clearly, that a doctor should never perform an abortion as it is taking a life? The original oath also says that doctors should not perform surgery and that it should be left to people more skilled with a knife. And, nowhere in the Hippocratic Oath does it say the most frequently quoted line, "First, do no harm." Not there anywhere. And, while it is a wonderful historical document, it carries no legal weight. No one has ever been fired for violating the Hippocratic Oath.
12:56 June 7, 2012 by JohnAndersson
As a doctor in Sweden I can assure everyone there is no swearing of any oaths, Hippocratic or otherwise in this country.
13:35 June 7, 2012 by Cephalectomy
if it was a dog he would have run to help it
13:57 June 7, 2012 by Scepticion
@krrodman

I think only 7% of the people in sweden survive a heart attack, because ambulances here just take way too long to get to the patient. In Las Vegas casinos survival rate is 75%, because personnel have basic CPR. Given this, medical people in a health center should know basic CPR and have a portable defibrillator on premises. The odds would still have been better than waiting for the ambulance.
14:40 June 7, 2012 by k2kats
First, I am so sad for this woman and send her my very best wishes.

Second, is it my imagination or is someone waiting for a higher critical mass of derogatory reports about the medical profession before acting?

Third, let's try a different tact. Since the government appears interested in increasing tourism, how about improving the health care system to assure tourists that they will be safe in the event of an emergency while on vacation?
14:56 June 7, 2012 by krrodman
@Scepticion

Please, I did not mean to defend this doctor in any way. At the very very least he should have attempted to help in any way possible. His actions - or lack thereof - are indefensible.

In reality, the man was already dead when he was discovered by his wife. But, for the sake of argument, let's suppose that his heart stopped as his wife was walking in the door. It probably took her at least a minute to discover her pulseless husband and assess the situation. How long then would it have taken an octogenarian to walk the 50 meters to the clinic, and once in the clinic get the attention of a physician? How long then would it have taken the doctor to collect the necessary equipment and find his way back to the house? An 87 year-old man does not survive several minutes without a pulse and without oxygen. Whether it was a heart attack or stroke or whatever, our patient suffered a mortal injury.

A person survives a cardiac arrest in Las Vegas because the event occurs in a public area. The arrest is witnessed and CPR is started immediately. Survival is directly related to the time interval between the arrest and the start of CPR. You are absolutely correct that CPR is critical. Unfortunately, our patient never had a chance.
16:24 June 7, 2012 by libertarianism
Heartless.
18:19 June 7, 2012 by strixy
This is an atnisocial strike that plagues Scandinavia and especially people in the position of power. In Norway during the Utøya massacre when parents of trapped children were desperately calling the police for help they were told that if the kids needed help they could call the operator themselves... . There is something rotten here... .
00:18 June 8, 2012 by blue2012
The doctor's license should be revoked and then the bureaucrat should say "I don't know why".
03:30 June 8, 2012 by shaken not stirred
The doctor, Hans Hartelius' last name sounds like Heartless. I guess he really is... heartless.

This is all that you can expect in a secular society. The chickens are coming home to roost, so the saying goes.
10:37 June 8, 2012 by Scepticion
@krrodman

I agree with your analysis, I didn't mean to imply that if the doctor had acted, the old man could have been saved. We don't know how long he's been in that state before he was even discovered, we don't even know if it was a heart attack. But it's just about the principle. The sad fact is that waiting for an ambulance is basically not a great choice, because they take so long. However, anybody having an attack near a health center could improve their chances, if the doctors just would act quickly. As to picking up a CPR unit and emergency kit, it should be a matter of 10 seconds, near the entrance as you walk out.

The business of selling CPR units is sure picking up, we just get some now for our workplace, because it just takes too long for anybody to show up.
10:39 June 8, 2012 by Da Goat
From my reading of the account Krrodman is correct.

if the poor old gubbe had been resuscitated he would be brain damaged definitely and most probably was long gone when found, the doctor should have gone along and had a look at least and to confirm the worst and give a bit of moral support for a few minutes at least.

maybe the doctor Knew he could do nothing ...so he did that!
13:35 June 8, 2012 by Shibumi
@Scepticion #8

Do you have a source for "only 7% of the people in sweden survive a heart attack"? This seems extremely low to me and a cursory Google search was unhelpful in verifying this stat.

Thank you.
20:18 June 8, 2012 by Puffin
@Scepticion

lol - I take it you are not a statistician if you believe that 93% of heart attack patients die in Sweden - in fact you are better off in Sweden than Las Vegas
20:45 June 8, 2012 by Shibumi
@Scepticion #8

The only stat I could find so far suggests that you are reversing survival and mortality rates. There is a 7% chance that someone hospitalized for cardiac arrest in Sweden will *die* during hospitalization. That's a 7% mortality rate which equals a 93% survival rate... NOT the 7% survival rate you cite.

Sourced from an article discussing a study on Swedish cardiac care, published in April 2011 in the Journal of the American Medical Association: http://m.npr.org/news/front/135745101?singlePage=true

"Here are the Swedish results, which span a period from 1996 and 2007:

Deaths during hospitalization after a heart attack went down from 13 percent to 7 percent.

Deaths in the 30 days following a heart attack decreased from 15 percent to 9 percent.

One-year mortality post-heart attack dropped from 21 percent to 13 percent."
08:28 June 9, 2012 by Paul Goodman
One can safely conclude that there are stupid and irresponsible persons in many countries. This doctor probably had a special surgery when he was a child that removed parts of his empathy capability. What I am more interested in is why the level of stupid comments registered on this site are far greater than any other site I have visited. I conclude that The Local is so into profits that it can't afford to moderate them because it is desperate for readers or it is a badly managed company. So, the Local, the Doctor, the comments are all part of an ethical breakdown.
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