Saturday, 26 September 2009


As I peel of my blood-stained jumpsuit and carefully put it into a plastic bag, for cleaning later, I wonder why a murder scene such as the one I have just left affects me so very much.

True, there was an awful lot of blood, but I see blood a lot, both in my job in the hospital and in pre-hospital care. And the gore associated with some of the motorbike accidents can be far worse; mangled limbs and the like.

Maybe it's the fact that it's one human being against another. But no, the assaults are often far worse, with people laying into each other like crazy, with knives, with champagne bottles, with baseball bats. And that's just par for the course, what we deal with in A&E and on the streets on a daily basis. It doesn't really affect us like this one does.

But there are two things that are different today.

Number 1: this man is clearly past any help whatsoever. He's dead, and there is nothing, nothing at all, that we can do. And yet we are duty-bound to go through the motions of getting a tube in place, etc, etc, etc. For those who spend their time trying to save life, that is difficult.

Number 2: this isn't an act of violence bourne of aggression, of alcohol, of cross words; not a fight gone wrong. This is an intentional act; someone has deliberately taken another's life. And, for those whose raison d'etre is to preserve life, that is an abomination.


  1. Thank you for such a fantastic blog.

    Why do you have to go through the motions if you know that he's past it? When is the point when you can say "I can do nothing for this casualty"?

  2. Good question. When you see someone in cardiac arrest, you always go through the abc's of resuscitation. Secure the airway, get iv access, do cpr, give drugs. Ambulance crews can stop after 20 minutes of asystole (no cardiac electrical activity), and do not need to start in certain situations. This is what is done. For my part, I can stop much sooner, without having to follow set protocol, and usually do. Often, the techniques I describe here take less time to do than to describe, and the time taken is useful to let me gather my thoughts and assess the situation.

  3. There is something brutal, no haunting in the knowledge that a one individual can set out to bring about the destruction of another. The method employed could be the callous use of a motor vehicle, or the clinical use of a firearm. Either weapon of choice will achieve the same results.

    It is the wanton finality of the act I find truly disturbing. Often the motive is utterly foreign to most people, but the result is the end of a life. Children bereft of a parent, and a son or daughter never to come home again is all to often the consequence.

    I joined the Ambulance service after I left HM Forces. I happily exchanged the old tool of my trade, a firearm, for that of a bag containing airways, dressings and the kit associated the preservation of life and not its destruction.

  4. Sounds horrible. I get what you mean about the deliberate act of ending someone else's life - I will never understand it either.

    On a lighter note, you clearly deal with a better class of thug than the ones round here, if they're whacking each other with champagne bottles! It's usually Buckfast bottles in these parts.