'Unacceptable and preventable': Medical associations respond to Tyre Nichols' death

Days after the Memphis, Tenn., Police Department released body cam footage of the violent beating that led to Tyre Nichols' death, National Nurses United, the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Association of Clinicians for the Underserved have released statements condemning police brutality and urging public health professionals to join in the fight against racism's systemic roots.

"Nurses declare that racism is a public health crisis," the NNU's Jan. 31 statement reads. "It is long past time to protect the health and lives of Black people. … As advocates for patients and nurses, we support the call to protect the health, safety and personal security of all people in the United States, including the right to live in an environment free from fear of violence and discriminatory treatment." 

Doug Olson, MD, president of ACU's board of directors, wrote in a Jan. 31 statement, "Even as we struggle with the weight of our collective sorrow, we must redouble our efforts as clinicians, administrators and advocates to support our BIPOC patients and staff."

AAMC's CEO, David Skorton, MD, and its chief diversity and inclusion officer, David Acosta, MD, wrote in a joint statement released Jan. 30, "For many in the Black and African American community, the risk of harm or death at the hands of police remains a public health risk that is completely unacceptable and preventable."

In addition to condemning police brutality, the response from emergency medical technicians shown in the released footage has also drawn sharp criticism from medical professionals nationwide. 

The footage shows EMTs arriving on scene after Mr. Nichols was beaten by police officers, but not immediately attempting to stop major bleeding or evaluating the patient for trauma, experts who have watched the footage said.

Sean Montgomery, MD, a trauma expert at Durham, N.C.-based Duke University's medical school, told The New York Times that although some of the video is grainy and at times hard to make out, overall, "the responding medical personnel did not seem to have followed standard protocol, which calls for stopping any major bleeding and then assessing a patient's airway and breathing." 

Public health expert Donell Harvin, DrPH, who is a former police officer and former EMT himself, wrote in an opinion piece published by Politico that the video "shows EMS workers failing to render what we call the 'standard of care' for trauma patients. Based on national standards and Tennessee state EMS protocols, this consists of, at minimum, assessing the victim's airway, breathing and vital signs, and in the setting of head trauma, immobilizing the victim's spine and neck and applying oxygen to prevent brain damage."

The AAMC's joint statement pointed to other tragic police killings including Rodney King, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, noting that not enough work is being done to adequately prevent such acts of violence.  

"We call on the medical and public health communities, law enforcement, legislators and policymakers to come together urgently to enact reforms that will preclude such tragedies from occurring in the future," Drs. Skorton and Acosta wrote.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars