Doctor Defends Canada Over Richardson

I didn’t write about the noise following the death of Natasha Richardson, but have noticed that it breaks down into two camps: helmet law fans, and critics of Quebec for not having helicopters on call. Canada’s socialized medical system has been slammed by some. An ER doctor in Lachine refutes the idea that the actress’s death is our fault, pointing out that a patient’s refusal of care can seal their fate, and that, where there are medical helicopters, crews are not exactly standing by to scramble; its unlikely that a chopper could’ve brought Ms. Richardson to Sacre-Coeur faster than the ambulance did. But if Tremblant arranges for a medicopter service for its elite clients in future, it would not surprise me.

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One Response

  1. Someone made a great point at my blog about how using a medicopter in Natasha Richardson’s case would have made her injury even worse — the change in air pressure would have exacerbated her situation. If they had medivac’ed her out of there, she might have died even sooner — or sustained permanent brain damage. But it’s impossible to know for sure. All we know is that she’s gone, and it’s an awful, terrible tragedy.

    The more we know about brain injury — how it can not only hide itself very well from untrained eyes, but it can also blind the injured party to the extent of their own condition (as it did me in 2004) — the less we can blame Canada. Or the resort. Or even Ms. Richardson herself.

    Brain injury can be a hidden condition — literally and figuratively. Unless the skull is cracked wide open or there is an obvious injury (such as the 7-inch knife stuck in a Florida man’s head that showed up in online news/pictures recently), if there are no immediate symptoms, gauging the severity of the injury is all but impossible.

    And when someone is brain injured, their personality can become combative, oppositional, stubborn, and downright dismissive. It’s not their fault. It’s how the brain works. I would imagine that if Ms. Richardson underwent that kind of change, it was unnerving for people around her, and they wanted to give her some space to get back to her normal self. Tragically, that never happened.

    Now, it’s perfectly normal and perfectly human to have these kinds of reactions under normal conditions. We all know that giving someone some time alone can help them regain their composure. The problem is, brain injuries can masquerade as “normal” conditions, when they’re anything but. We saw this plainly in Ms. Richardson’s case, and to lay blame over the event is not only foolish and ill-informed, but it deprives us all of invaluable lessons.

    In the case of head injury, helmets may help in some cases, but education is far more effective all across the board. And blame and mandatory legislation does a lot less good than well-informed choices that are enforced with logic — and compassion.

    We all need to learn more, before we start pointing fingers.

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