EMS Workers Share The Most Avoidable Deaths They've Ever Witnessed

It isn't always our time.

Life is short and death is inevitable, two rules to live by. We're often told when it's your time, it's your time, so don't be scared but... what if we could hold off on that expiration date by just being smarter and healthier? EMS workers see death and tragedy all of the time and they admit, a significant amount of pain is highly avoidable just by realizing human error.

Redditor u/WapitiTal wanted to hear from some of our medical heroes who are hard at it in the field by asking.... EMS workers of reddit, what's the most avoidable death you've ever seen?

Slippery when Wet.


Not completely sure if I'm interpreting this right but people who take off their medical alarm (well known brand life alert) to shower. It seems like half the dead bodies I go on have a medical alarm but they took it off and slipped in the shower or while getting out. Those things are usually water resistant and that's an extremely common place to slip and fall. thereWasAnAttempt42

Drive Smart. 

Probably anytime someone could have worn a seat belt but didn't. itfosho

Totaled my car a couple weeks ago. Without my seatbelt I would've gone through the windshield. As it was, I hit the airbag hard enough to pop it and spiderweb out the windshield in front of the wheel.

All in all, I got out with a couple friction burns on the inside of my forearms. Everything on the passenger side was shoved back about a foot or so.

Ps. State Farm "Emergency" Roadside Assistance was over 4 hours late to dispatch a driver, even after I called, cancelled with the automated system AND a phone operator. G_E_I_R_A_V_O_R

Take your Health Seriously. 

When patients don't take their medicine. Lots of type 2 diabetics don't take their Metformin or change their diet/exercise simply out of denial or they are too set in their ways. End up with bad kidney failure or heart problems.

Additionally, had a patient who refused to take their medicine for their high blood pressure. No reason, just refused. Ended up with a brain bleed on his brain stem, was a quadripeligic, on a ventilator, could not speak, move, or breathe on his own.... he was in his 30s.

Take your medicine people. shocked_caribou

Smoke Away. 

As an ER MD:

Me: Sir, you are having a heart attack. The cardiologist will be here shortly, and we will be taking you to the cath lab as soon as we can.

Patient: I'm going outside to smoke.

Patient rips off ecg leads and defib pads. Walks out despite warnings from myself and others.

EMS Radio (15mins later): XXX year old male cardiac arrest. CPR in progress. AndyEMD

Don't Wait!


It's hard to narrow it down to a specific one but I assure you it involves family that said "we just wanted to wait and see what happened."medic8388

Broken Bones. 

I used to be an ambulance officer and on the job it was suicides. I had a guy slash his forearms with a knife then realize he didn't want to go through with it... we got half way to the hospital roughly before he checked out. The most avoidable death I've seen was my grandmother though she went to hospital with a broken wrist. She then developed a Staph infection which meant a couple of days stay supposedly, the orderlies then dropped her while moving beds and broke her hip which then lead to her getting pneumonia and her subsequent death. From a healthy 69 year old woman with a broken wrist to dead in a bit over a week. tungstenfish

The  Simple Bleed? 

Guy had a simple rectal bleed (eg fissure or tear in colon or intestine, blood comes out the anus). He got out of bed and tried to clean it up in the bathroom. That didn't help so he sat on the toilet and tried to stop it. That didn't help and it was getting messy so he went had a shower. Still didn't help so he went out into the bathroom and at that point, probably weak, he sat down in the ground and tried to wipe it up with toilet paper.

We found him dead, stiff with rigor mortis the next morning. Cell phone on the bathroom counter.

It was all pretty obvious from the trail of blood and bloody hand stains on the doorknobs, mirror, walls, toilet, shower knobs, floor... everywhere.

Folks, if you are bleeding a lot out of your butt, there is nothing you can do to stop it and your priority isn't cleaning it up. It's embarrassing but isn't worth dying over. Pjpjpjpjpj

In times of War. 

I was an Army combat medic (EMT-B). The worst completely avoidable death was when we got a call that an Afghan soldier nearby was having chest pains, and their own medic was really concerned about it, so they sent him to our base.

On the drive over, their convoy had to stop suddenly. One of the guys riding in the back of a pickup truck fell off the back because he wasn't wearing any kind of seatbelt or harness. He probably would have been okay, but the truck behind them wasn't able to stop as quickly, so he got caught between the two. He probably would have survived, but he wasn't wearing his helmet either. His skull popped like a grape.

Of course, in my opinion, 100% of the deaths I saw were completely avoidable. Especially because after nearly two decades of war, the US military pulled out and the Taliban immediately retook the area. Men, women, children, and my brothers died for nothing.

Oh, by the way, the chest pain guy was completely fine. There was absolutely nothing wrong with him. Lovebot_AI

Sobriety First. 

Drunk drivers. Way to many drunk drivers and the poor souls unlucky enough to be in their path. andrewdmc

Drunk driver killed my first husband. Drunk drivers are scum. So avoidable. I don't understand how people who rack up multiple DWI's aren't in prison. NiDonnaNaiz

Leave the Stickies!


Person in the hospital kept taking their EKG leads off because they didn't like the stickers on their chest. They kept doing this after being warned.

Had a heart attack and didn't get found until they couldn't be saved. Keep your damn leads on people. Bird_of_the_Word

Save your Blood! 

I had a 32M admitted for multiple pulmonary embolisms, turns out this was his second admission within 2 months because he stopped taking his anti-coagulant that was prescribed during his previous admission. His reasoning? They didn't feel like they were doing anything so he stopped taking them. Due to this, he was then started on a different anti-coagulant that requires weekly blood tests, so instead of just taking a pill with little follow-up he had to live with weekly blood tests and a higher risk medication! toolate4ogusername

Can you Hear Me Know?

Not answering the phone is common, family will call for a welfare check. Sometimes a family member comes to visit. Old people also do this in assisted living and nursing homes but in my experience those rarely result in death. thereWasAnAttempt42

Nothing is Obvious.


Obvious answer would be all of the overdoses but also many incidents in nursing homes, where a patient will be found dead and the staff state "they just saw them 30 minutes ago" when that is definitely not the case.

The worse is a parent rolling onto their baby while asleep, I haven't had that call yet but other crews did recently and it is just devastating to all involved... family, medics, police, fire.... everyone. FuzzyMeep7

Never Go Back! 

Was an EMT, but this was prior to that when I was just a Volunteer Firefighter... got called to a house fire when a grandmother had woken up her grand daughter and got safely out of the house. Unfortunately she decided to go back into the house and died of smoke inhalation mere feet from the door. Since it was a ways out in the county by the time we got there, the house was fully involved, meaning we couldn't go in had to fight the fire back to get through the door. Moral of the story, don't go back into a building in fire where everyone is out safe, things can be replaced but you can't. moderndaygypsy13


Guy stationed on a coast guard ship got hit in the head by a crane when it fell over. The crane operator didn't put down the outriggers (the big metal feet that stick out to stabilize the crane) and it fell over. Victim was in the wrong place at the wrong time, left behind four daughters and a wife. SpyingForTheNSA


Dude caused massive internal bleeding from using a jack hammer incorrectly. By the time his wife called 911, he was all but dead, and had filled several small trashcans with blood he had vomited.

Big guy too. Had to use firemen and the sling to get him down the stairs. The whole time we were working on him and getting him down the stairs, his wife was nagging him about not hiring someone to break up the pavement, that he was such an idiot for trying to do it himself. She didn't know these were the last words he'd hear from her. nitewake

Too Much To Bare...

Not an EMS but my friend died of AIDS because he "got tired of" taking his medication. He was born with it and was always a little crazy in an offbeat kinda way. Our friend group never knew he was sick until he got hospitalized. Even then, we didn't know anything but he had pneumonia. When I went to see him his spine was visible and he kept telling us how they'd give him anything for pain, whenever he asked, which we all laughed at. He died a month later, laughing til the last day. He expressed regret at having stopped his drugs. His girlfriend, who he'd infected, was devastated as they'd just had twins. He had watched his mom die from it. Completely avoidable death. SexceptableIncredibl

I Know THAT Look! 

I've posted this before but I once had a patient who had "the look" of someone with one foot in the grave who had near complete blockages in all three of the main blood vessels that supply the heart. That's not super unusual, and with open heart surgery she probably had an excellent chance of a good outcome. What was different about this case was she had apparently she'd had the same thing happen (to slightly less degrees) not once, not twice, but THREE times over the previous six months and had refused surgery each time in favor of a Mediterranean diet.

She decompensated very quickly, was immediately sedated and intubated, and flown out to the big city hospital for the surgery she should have received six months ago. I'm pretty sure she did survive, but did not have a great quality of life. ggrnw27

Hair Back.

Not EMS, but in my lab at school they talked about safety in the lab and shared how there was this girl who was in a lab with lathes (operated by spinning) and her hair was long and got caught in the machine and pulled her to it and she died. Must wear a bun in those labs, not even a pony tail will do you good. bluesapphire731

Don't be Dumb.


People doing dumb things on the job. Moving an industrial generator? Sure, stand directly under it while the Loft is lowering it down. Have a truck load of 7,500 pound i-beams that need to be offloaded off a flatbed? Sure thing, do it by yourself with a forklift. Have a wood planer at a furniture factory that gets jammed? Go ahead, stick your arm in there to unjam it. IndWrist


If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

To find help outside the United States, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has resources available at https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/

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