March 31, 2013

EMS workers who post pictures of the sick, wounded, and dead on social media...

"... a twisted hobby of voyeurism that has been part of the emergency-worker culture for years."
“I saw one where this victim’s head and spinal column were completely removed from his body,” [said one former EMS worker]. "Lots of people have them — patients galore, all ripped apart and mangled... And it’s not just EMS. Fire has them, too, of burn victims, and police take them of people who get killed. It runs across the service. They have them on their phones and there are lot of hardcover books like photo albums."

A nurse on Staten Island complained about one EMT who got his kicks shocking health workers with images of bodies arranged into poses. One showed a woman’s corpse hanging from a noose with a cigarette in its lips. Another showed dismembered legs placed in a sexually suggestive position.

54 comments:

Palladian said...

Unspeakably revolting.

edutcher said...

Laughing past the graveyard.

bagoh20 said...

It would be pretty hard to resist. You would have to have at least a tiny morsel of decency and respect for strangers. That's rare.

Michael said...

Which again reminds me to avoid this variety of "first responders" whenever possible.

Bob Boyd said...

Exchanging pictures with fellow professionals of victims in situ is one thing. That's essentially like talking shop.
Posing them is something else entirely. That guy needs to find another line of work....like making license plates.

tiger said...

There was one at Fark a few years ago where a bicycle rider had rammed his head into the back of a van. His head was in the van and the was supporting the rest of his hanging body (sorry for the syntax)

Fark actually pulled the link - this was the only time I know of them doing that.

On the other hand I dated a woman who worked in a hospital and she told that the nurses were always cracking jokes while they were moving bodies in the service elevators.

Whistling passed the grave yard indeed.

Lem said...

Scorsese miss-casted it.

Paul said...

I thought HIPPA regs covered the privacy of patients?

Tom said...

My dad was an fire fighter and ems and this shit was normal for the guys he worked with. When I was high school sometimes I'd be at the fire house and they'd want to show me pics if my dad wasn't there. I hated it. I know these people do a horrific job and this is a way to deal with it. But I never like it.

The only part that was the least bit humorous is the term DRT instead of DOA.

Rick Lee said...

I knew a military policeman who (when I was about 13 years old) showed me 8x10s of a guy who put a shotgun in his mouth and blew the top of his head off. I really didn't need to see that. It disturbed me for quite a while. I've been seriously desensitized by now and I can look at anything, but back then... yeeechhh.

ricpic said...

As Tom said, it's a way to deal with a horribly stressful job. Which of course cuts no mustard with our beautiful people betters.

sydney said...

Sounds like the "emergency worker culture" needs to step up its commitment to professionalism. It's one thing to make jokes amongst yourselves to relieve the stress, but quite another to take liberties with other people's bodies, let alone photograph it and post it on the internet.

madAsHell said...

HIPPA regs covered the privacy of patients

I'm not sure, but I think that was sarcasm.

Petunia said...

Taking pictures of patients/victims is disgusting and inappropriate. Sharing them with your co-workers is the same.

Posting them online should lead to the immediate firing of the poster, with loss of pension and benefits.

St. George said...

I hurt my foot.

Doctor had to call a toe truck.

Cedarford said...

Michael said...
Which again reminds me to avoid this variety of "first responders" whenever possible.

=======================
But! But!! Haven't we been drilled and indoctrinated endlessly that 1st responders and those government employees that have uniforms and guns are The Heroes Who Serve???
We are supposedly not worthy of them!!!!

I understand "dark humor" in the medical field and firefighters. In house, and I've seen it. I understand military and why US troops may reciprocate a lack of respect for enemy fighter's remains based on what dignity enemy affords the remains of our fallen troops.

But EMTs desecrating the bodies of innocent victims of crime, accidents, disease, suicide? Violating their privacy by taking trophies from them and photos of their final state?

Fire 'em. They are not indispensible, they can be replaced readily. And they are NOT "heroes who serve and deserve worship".
Same deal with cops and firefighters that indulge in ghoulish behavior. Fire 'em. Forget 'em.



St. George said...

And then there are those who post photos of the Easter Bunny containing captions suggesting that this secular symbol of Christianity is going to murder or molest children.

Lem said...

When I was a kid, in the Dominican Republic, the newspapers regularly showed crime scene black and whites on the front page.

They weren't too gruesome... Mostly people lying on what appeared to be a blood soaked bed type of gruesome.

In fact I shouldn't even be commenting this... its so ho-hum... but as I was saying before, I missed the blog.

Palladian said...

As Tom said, it's a way to deal with a horribly stressful job. Which of course cuts no mustard with our beautiful people betters.

Oh shut up.

Methadras said...

It's NYC, what the fuck do you expect. It's a giant rat hole run by rats.

Gahrie said...

If you like this sort of thing..try rotten.com

Third Coast said...

Folks of a certain age probably remember that the National Enquirer used to show lots of gore from crime and accident scene photos in every issue.

William said...

If you want a crash course in human depravity work the night shift as an EMT in a bad neighborhood. On the plus side, administration of narcan can keep a junkie from overdosing, but on the down side it can ruin a truly beautiful high for the junkie. Junkies are a quarrelsome lot and will sometimes express their displeasure by peeling off chunks of dried vomit from their clothes and throwing them at the first responder.... Try not to get to the scene of an assault before the cops. The assulter(s) are likely to forcibly hold you back and say "leave him alone, I want to see that motherfucker bleed to death". And if you don't revive some fat cardiac arrest, his family is apt to accuse you of incompetence or worse......You're always picking up incontinent bums, and some of the really far gone ones have maggots infecting their wounds. It's not a job to inspire belief in the goodness of man.....I've read that people who work at the lottery pay off offices get the impression that life is unfair to them because they have never won the lottery. EMT's are just the opposite. Every day they meet and greet the winners of the bad luck lottery and wonder when their number will come up. Don't blame them for trying to spit out some of the bile.

Chef Mojo said...

Where I find the extremes of this revolting, I understand it as an extension of a coping mechanism used by people who have to deal with the dead.

Back in the day, when I was much younger, I worked night shift security at rural hospital. There was only one security officer at night, and by state law, I was required to check the dead into the morgue with the charge nurse. These could be people who had coded on the floors or a DOA in the ER. There was a formal ritual involved, with checklists, formal exchanges of statements in the morgue and countersigning the logbooks. In addition, there was a report to type up back in the office.

Now, that's well and good, but over time, when you've handled so many of the dead, you develop a callus, as well as a callousness. The dead are not pleasant. You begin to laugh about it in conversation with the people you work with. You continue to treat the dead with respect, but you've become different. I remember after a shift that involved two auto accident burn victims who came into the ER DOA, stroke DOA, code death in ICU and an overnight death from our long term care facility. 5 bodies in one night, and two of them burn victims. At the end of that shift, I couldn't shake the idea that I smelled like dead people; old or burned. The charge nurse came over to my place in the morning and we drank our selves silly, laughed, cried and passed out.

However, we had one very ironclad rule: You didn't talk about this shit with people who didn't do that sort of job. I couldn't conceive of taking a picture. What on earth what I want with a constant reminder of those moments?

After 5 years of this sort of thing, I was completely burned out. I was bitter and enraged about the dead, and the last thing I wanted to do was treat them with respect. One day, I realized what was happening to me, and I gave my notice, and got into a far less stressful line of work; being a chef.

All I'm saying is that this is nothing new. This is how the people who confront and handle our dead sometimes deal with their jobs.

Cell phone cameras and social media, though, have pushed it beyond the pale. Those people need to be removed from their jobs and get some intensive therapy.

Chef Mojo said...

And Cederford?

Fuck off.

phx said...

I always understood the black humor of some first responders and medical people that I worked with once upon a time.

That's different than collecting trophies.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Scared shitless and full of shit, what are these garbage haulers to do in their mind?

Humanity was lost long ago; the great thing is it was created not that long ago.

John said...

What Lem said about DR Papers.

Back in the 70s we had a new tabloid newspaper here in Puerto Rico called El Vocero.

It is fully respectable now but through the 80's every single issue had a dead person taking up most of the front page.

It was said that even the Pope would not get on the front page unless he had been shot, stabbed or in a horrific car wreck.

John Henry

Synova said...

I would think that moving the bodies around and posing them is a different sort of thing than taking pictures.

Leon said...

yea i hauled body parts (transplants but still none the less) for a while and it is a bit weird. joke if you will just don't talk about it to the outside or post pictures on the internet

Simon Kenton said...

This is a HIPAA violation and first responders around here are fired for it.

Dante said...

Chef: Really appreciate the description: it will stay with me for a while. I'm not certain whether this is a commentary on what's inside of people, or modern day approaches to efficiency. Perhaps it would be better if families wheeled the dead into the morgue, the same as they require fathers to watch the baby come out.

Maybe in the modern world pills are necessary.

Amy said...

My local first responders (EMT/fire/ambulance) group has a facebook page, which I follow, as they post on some pertinent topics - weather, etc. But I have noticed that they always put up photos of the worst car wrecks and fires. Never with a person in them, and always with lic plates blurred. But I find it very disturbing. I agree it must be a coping mechanism in their own culture. But even these more vague photos are disturbing to me. I had no idea there were that many awful accidents just in my county.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

I am in a bad mood today about the opposite of something like this. Today when walking I believe I heard the engine sputtering and then dying of a plane that crashed silently (until it exploded on impact) in Winston-Salem (about six miles away), killing two on board. So I decide to comment about the sounds I heard at the webpage of the local newspaper. I comment using some facebook app, the only choice, and the comment appears like it has been posted when I go to the website on my computer but not when I go to that of another computer. Hardly any comments are being made at the newspaper website, so probably what has happened, I figure, is that the newspaper has their facebook comment app set to limited comment viewability, meaning thousands of people are wasting their time commenting thinking that probably anyone who goes to the website can read their comments, whereas probably no one but themselves and their facebook friends can see them. And I try to go the FAA website, and I could find no place that I can find to describe what I heard.

phx said...

Posing bodies is what serial killers sometimes do.

phx said...

Run from someone who would do that. Sociopath +/-.

Jason said...

Shit, this is news?

Didn't any of these people read The Choirboys or any other Joseph Wambaugh novels?

I don't think anyone who never worked in a field like this would ever understand it, or the people that do.

Dante said...

am in a bad mood today about the opposite of something like this

You must have posted some conservative commentary at some point, and so have been banned from expressing yourself on the newspaper site.

Remember, free speech is only allowed if you are:

A) A reporter
B) Lesbian or Gay
C) Minority

Stephen A. Meigs said...

Remember, free speech is only allowed if you are:

A) A reporter
B) Lesbian or Gay
C) Minority


I had just created the facebook account so I could post, so I don't know how they could have known what I was. It wasn't a political post, anyway.

It's worth a look at Facebook's description of their comment plugin. I know it sounds like I am some sort of paranoid crazy, but the simplest explanation is that the newspaper has their comment section set for "limited visibility". The reason I say this is that there are hardly any comments about their news stories, notwithstanding Winston-Salem is fairly large. A comment system in a newspaper that is designed to easily allow posters and all their Facebook friends to think their comments are available to everybody, when in fact, they could be deleted to all but themselves and their Facebook friends is just an evil thing as a matter of principle. It ought to be illegal. It is entirely possible, just a matter of setting the visibility to "limited", for a newspaper to make a large fraction of the people in the area think they are having an influence in local politics, etc., by voicing their opinions, when in fact they are not voicing any opinions at all except to themselves and their Facebook friends (those who would be most likely to notice that the comment is not universally available). Perhaps people who know more about Facebook can judge better whether this could happen, but I am inclined to think this is happening.

Tim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim said...

Undoubtedly, this is another thing the ACA will fix, right?

Dante said...

Stephen,

Thanks for the note. I've had a lot of friends saying the same thing. They are mostly atheist conservatives, and so I assumed it was something related to that.

Regardless, I share your opinion regarding not allowing the posts to be shown. Of all places, a newspaper ought to be the bastion of free speech. yet, for some reason, they insist on the letter being signed, though often the editorials aren't.

It would be good to get to the bottom of it.

Dante said...

P.S. Even though Ann sometimes will not address an issue, at least she allows the opposition to be expressed. Yet, she is only a blogstress, not some freedom of speech reporter. This is not backhanded, incidentally, it is, in fact, admiration.

30yearProf said...

I was an EMT for over 20 years. There are reasons for the photos and jokes (which usually stay INSIDE the station or the hospital or whatever).

1. It is a coping mechanism. Docs, nurses, police, firefighters, soldiers, all do it.

2. It's a desensitization mechanism. And desensitization is necessary to do the job (believe me). If you look at the "person," you won't last a week. They showed us lots of these in training. A photo, however horrible, is only a photo. A body is not. Better that you throw up in the waste basket 10 times in training than you do it once at an accident scene.

3. And it's a learning tool. How did you get him out of there?

BUT, it is not a form of entertainment on Facebook.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

I sent the Winston-Salem Journal a query asking what happened. I'll await their response before further investigation.

I figured out that the NTSB rather than the FAA is where one has to go to file eyewitness reports of crashes. It's easy once one knows where to go (email).

Mick Havoc said...

I retired as a Captain of Police after 28 years and if I ever found a subordinate doing this I would do everything in my power to have them terminated.
Graveyard humor is one thing. As phx said, collecting trophies is beyond the pale.

Craig Landon said...

I OK with the Marine's approach to desecrating bodies.

dhagood said...

in my youth during the early 70s, i worked for a year as an ambulance attendant. it's an interesting line of work: you see and are intimately involved in horrible things. dead children. murder. rape. industrial and motor vehicle accidents. suicides.

it's horrifying what people do to each other. it's hard to smile reassuringly at another human being as you try to stabilize them when it's just about all you can do not to throw up when you have look at the unspeakable things that have happened to them, especially when it is no fault of their own.

the dead twitch. and make noise. and usually smell badly, unless they have died unattended about a week or so ago, in which case the smell is beyond belief.

so yes, one develops spiritual calluses. the black humor one uses to shed a little of the horror with people in the same line of work is very common and i think perfectly understandable.

posing bodies? the use of props? that's over the line. people who indulge that sort of sickness need to find another line of work for their own good. firing them is as good a way to induce a career change as any other.

stlcdr said...

What's old is new, again.

This has been going on for a long time. The difference is that the average (sic) citizen can satisfy their voyeuristic needs and look into a greater range of the seedier sides of the human mind.

Not only can we express shock and condemnation, we can stand on our own mole hill and shout it out to anyone who stumbles across a rogue [hyper]link.

Dante said...

Or, one can take a peak at plastination, which is far more horrifying than any of these things. Mostly these are the plastinated bodies of Chinese peasants, as I understand the controversy.

Jason said...

Of COURSE It's not a form of entertainment on Facebook!

(That's what Tumblr is for!)

Roger J. said...

I have seen enough gore during my military days to last me a lifetime--I would never think of posting the things I have seen. Violent death is not pretty. I understand the element of "black humor," but posing the dead is beyond the pale.

Amartel said...

Is there some reason why these people are allowed to continue to betray the public's trust? There is no excuse nor explanation that justifies this.

In my job, when I have a bad car accident case, there are almost always gory photos. The plaintiffs' bar delights in them. I would never, never, never show them to anyone outside the litigation, much less post them on social media. Disgusting!

Amartel said...

Coping mechanism? Bullshit. Find a different way to cope or get another job.