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Washington Man Dies After Paramedics Diagnose Acid Reflux

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A 39 year old man collapsed and died in his home after paramedics responded to a 911 call and told him he had acid reflux disease.

Edward Givens died only six hours after his family had called the paramedics who told him he had acid reflux disease and should take pepto bismol. Paramedics in DC are required by protocol to transport any patient by ambulance to a hospital if the patient asks to go to the hospital said Alan Etter, a spokesman for D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services.

Lolitha Givens said the firefighters asked her son what was wrong, and the emergency medical technicians who arrived by ambulance checked his vital signs and performed an electrocardiogram, the results of which they said were normal.

The EMTs asked Givens whether he had eaten or had anything to drink that evening, and he said he had eaten a burger, Givens said. They told him and his mother that he probably was suffering from acid reflux and suggested he take antacid.

"Six hours later, my son was on the floor, dead," Lolitha Givens said.

This is not the first time DC Emergency Medical Staff has come under fire recently, as Cassandra Bailey died in 2006 from cardiac arrest when an ambulance took more than 90 minutes to arrive after being telephoned several times.

In January of 2006, former New York Times journalist David Rosenbaum was beaten severely in a street robbery, but emergency personnel labeled him drunk and considered him a low priority. He died two days later.

Unfortunately for all these people including the Givens’ family, suing the District of Columbia can be a tricky process because of a powerful defense known as "the public duty doctrine." State officers, when acting in their state roles, are often considered immune for negligent acts. While the facts of this case may ultimately bypass that defense for the Givens’ family, it presents a significant legal hurdle, if they choose to seek compensation.

Edward Givens was the father of two and worked as a counselor to youths who had been victims of domestic violence. He coached Little League baseball, youth football, and basketball as well.