Relatives of the late Bradley Ginn Sr. are suing the Bellingham Fire Department in Bellingham, Washington, for damages that amount to $15 million. They claim in their suit that the department used Ginn's body to practice insertion of breathing tubes "while waiting for it to be transported to a funeral home." The fire department has acknowledged this is the truth and apologized.
While it is standard practice for paramedics to practice intubation and meet their certification requirements by testing their skills on recently deceased patients, the Bellingham Fire Department acknowledged in October that a patient's next of kin must be aware and approve of any "tube-checks."
Bellingham Fire Chief Bill Newbold told CBS affiliate KIRO-TV:
"This is unheard of and this incident that took place was completely unacceptable. The focus on training surpassed the other red flags that should have been there."
Several of the firefighters involved in the unauthorized training expressed their concern with the session. Typically, they take place in a hospital or on a mannequin.
"We're going to work to put measures in place to ensure the public's trust and to make sure this doesn't happen again."
Everyone involved with the procedure received punishment from the department: 12 employees were formally disciplined, a paramedic was suspended for a week without pay, the crew's division chief resigned, and, rather than face a demotion, the station's captain (who had worked with the department for 30 years) decided to retire.
But the punishment isn't over for the nine participants in the training session, all of whom were licensed EMTs. They are now under investigation by the state Department of Health.
Ginn's wife, Jai Ginn, is now suing the department for $15 million due to mental pain caused by "intentional and negligent care of a body and abuse by city of Bellingham employees." She also made claims alleging "unauthorized invasion and desecration of a dead body and possible wrongful death."
Ginn Jr., the deceased's son, claims that his family was attempting to locate the body even while the intubation was being performed. He seeks an additional $200,000 in compensation.
Some Twitter users were outraged that the procedure had taken place:
Others thought a $15 million lawsuit seemed unnecessary:
Ginn Sr. had issued a "do-not-resuscitate directive," which means that, in the event of his death, medical professionals are not allowed to perform "invasive procedures such as intubation." It seems the firefighting team should have taken a look at that before their meeting.