The weekend is almost here, folks. For those of you interested in the clashes between Paramedics and doctors, you are invited to visit our new website, as we add material over the coming months:
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As we wrote in the previous article, A University of Pittsburgh doctor was found guilty of poisoning his doctor-wife last November. And two weeks ago he learned he will be spending the rest of his life in a Pennsylvania state prison.
Ferrante, a co-director of the University of Pittsburgh Center for ALS Research, used a university credit card to buy a half-pound of cyanide two days before his wife collapsed.
An Allegheny County jury of four women and eight men reviewed the facts of the case for 15 hours before convicting Doctor Robert Joseph Ferrante in the cyanide death of his wife, Doctor Autumn Marie Klein. Their verdict was unanimous.
But a lesser-known fact in this case is this: had it not been for the sworn testimony of the two Paramedics who initially treated her, the case might never have gone to trial. Briefly, here’s why:
As his dying wife lay gasping for air on the kitchen floor on the night of the poisoning, Doctor Ferrante told the medics that he wanted them to transport her to a smaller, less-sophisticated hospital called Shadyside. Under the circumstances, this was a ridiculous demand. Even non-medical citizens in the Pittsburgh area were aware of what Ferrante and the Paramedics both knew: that University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where the couple worked, was not only several minutes closer. It is a trauma center, far better equipped to handle critical patients, especially late at night. And even though no one but Ferrante knew at the time, the only treatment that could possibly save the woman’s life is a procedure called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, also known as ECMO, which pumps blood from the body, saturates it with oxygen and then returns it to the circulation system.
Shadyside does not have that capability in its emergency room, and Ferrante knew it.
Although Paramedics are routinely in charge of a medical scene, in our experience, very few possess the intestinal fortitude to countermand a physician whose wife is dying on a kitchen floor. But these medics were adamant that their patient go the most appropriate ER, and that is exactly what they did.
Shortly after the patient was admitted into the hospital, one of the treating MDs ordered a blood test, which revealed an oddly high level of acid. On a hunch, the doctor then ordered the specific test for cyanide poisoning. It is highly unlikely that this check for cyanide poisoning – an extremely rare event – would have even been done at the smaller hospital, where Robert Ferrante wanted his wife taken.
Doctor Klein died on April 20, 2013. Three days later, at Dr. Ferrante’s insistence, her body was cremated. As a result, there was no autopsy.
Doctor Karl Williams, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner, based on the toxicology reports, determined that Doctor Klein had died of cyanide poisoning. The forensic pathologist ruled her death a homicide.
Cyanide kills by blocking oxygen to the cells. A lethal dose for a healthy adult can be as small as 200 milligrams – about the size of a drop of water. The poison acts quickly and is nearly undetectable almost immediately after ingestion. Had samples of Doctor Klein’s blood not been taken quickly, there would have been no real physical evidence of poisoning.
Much later, the medics testified that as they were caring for the lady on the floor, they noticed she was lying next to a plastic bag, which Ferrante said contained creatine, and a small glass vial.
Prosecutors were able to prove that Doctor Klein had swallowed cyanide-laced creatine that Ferrante had mixed into her energy drink just minutes before she collapsed.
After the trial jurors told the news media that testimony of the Paramedics was one of the key aspects of the circumstantial case that convinced them of the murderous doctor’s guilt.
In the end, the Pittsburgh-area Paramedics were not able to save this woman’s life. But they certainly helped prevent yet another lab coat lunatic from getting away with murder.
So in our view, this case underscores the fact that EMS professionals often benefit society in far more ways than the obvious. And one way is to dig their boots into the floor in the heat of crisis, stare rotten physicians directly in the eye and say, “No.”
Pity how few are willing to do so. Thus, the EMS conundrum continues . . . .
Here’s more on this all-too-common, ‘doctor kills wife’ murder case:
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“Jurors heard Doctor Klein on the 911 tape, groaning and gasping for air, while Ferrante was on the phone with EMS dispatchers the night he killed her.”
A University of Pittsburgh doctor who was found guilty of poisoning his doctor-wife last November will spend the rest of his life in a Pennsylvania state prison.
An Allegheny County jury of four women and eight men reviewed the facts of the case for 15 hours before convicting Doctor Robert Joseph Ferrante in the cyanide death of his wife. Their verdict was unanimous.
Ferrante was given the mandatory criminal sentence on February 4 for the first-degree murder of his wife, Doctor Autumn Klein, in April 2013, by Pennsylvania Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning. In closing the case, Judge Manning said this:
“Murder is unique. It abolishes the party it injures, so society has to take the place of the victim and on his or her behalf, demand atonement or grant forgiveness,” Judge Manning said. “We are here today to demand atonement.”
Ferrante, age 66, is a former University of Pittsburgh researcher. He was found guilty of putting cyanide in his wife’s drink on the evening of April 17, 2013, after she returned home from working a 15-hour shift. Doctor Klein then collapsed in the kitchen of the couple’s home. She was taken to University of Pittsburgh Presbyterian Emergency where she was placed in the ICU on life support for three days. She died on April 20.
Investigators at the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office soon discovered that her blood draws revealed that she had a lethal amount of cyanide in her system. Pittsburgh detectives immediately looked to Doctor Klein’s husband as a suspect.
Investigators learned that Ferrante had placed an overnight order for potassium cyanide. This was an abnormal thing to do, because – as his lab colleagues swore in their legal depositions – cyanide was not part of any project at the laboratory that year, and he used a credit card that was not normally used for that type of purchase. Evidence showed that Ferrante then laced Klein’s creatine energy drink with the deadly poison.
District Attorney Lisa Pellegrini’s presentation clearly swayed the jury in another matter, when she showed digital proof that Ferrante had done internet searches on his home computer on the subject of cyanide poisoning in the weeks leading up to Klein’s death, and even in the week following her death, well before a lab test and revealed the poison.
Ferrante’s sentence included no chance for parole. Doctor Klein’s family is creating a trust fund for her eight-year-old daughter.
Here is another view of this regrettable case:
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In the Syracuse New York area the State Board for Professional Medical Conduct has finally gotten around to disciplining a physician who police believe has been repeatedly committing petty theft over the last 25 years. Investigators suspect the doctor has stolen from at least four different stores.
According to a law enforcement press release, Doctor Lisa N. Freedman, an OB/Gyn specialist in East Syracuse, has been fined $5,000 for professional misconduct – but not because she appears to be a one-woman crime spree whenever she visits a store. It’s because the Board learned she was prescribing drugs for other people and then popping the pills herself.
The State Board reports that Freedman, age 53, wrote scam prescriptions for family members over a four-year span beginning in September 2009. She also violated the law by not maintaining medical records on these so-called “patients.” She has been found negligent on more than one occasion and fraudulently practicing medicine.
In an entirely separate criminal case, Freedman will be in court in March to answer to a charge of theft in the city of Dewitt. According to the Dewitt Police Department, this manic MD was caught stealing from Wegman’s supermarket last June. She was arrested at the store by DeWitt police after she was witnessed stealing lipstick, magazines, soap, cosmetics, spices and candy worth several hundred dollars.
Records indicate this latest incident is the eighth time since 1990 Freedman has been charged with stealing from stores in the Syracuse area, Previous incidents happened at Walmart; the Towne Center Mall in Manlius; and yet another Wegmans in the city of Liverpool.
Michael Ringwood, Freedman’s attorney, states the doctor has been charged with petty theft more than once but was never convicted.
Under New York State law, a medically unrelated criminal conviction can result in a charge of professional misconduct. But an arrest alone is not considered misconduct.
As part of her official sanctions, the following penalties have been determined:
- The doctor may not prescribe narcotics to herself or family members
- She may not drink alcohol
- She is subject to unannounced drug and alcohol tests
- She must actively be involved in Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous.
- She may not treat patients unless she is supervised by a sobriety monitor and a therapist
Here’s another view of this lab coat lunatic:
The day that broke the heart of a city
I had not planned on visiting an airplane crash on my birthday but that’s the way this job treats you. You think the biggest part of your afternoon will involve a chocolate cake. Then an airliner comes screaming down into a neighborhood nearby. For a medic, watching the action unfold on television isn’t really an option, even on your day off.
So within eight minutes after it happened, by 9:10 in the morning, I was there, walking slowly towards a wall of flames of the worst airline disaster – up till then – in U.S. history. PSA Flight #182 had collided with a tiny Cessna training plane a half-mile above the city of San Diego. And seventeen seconds after the two planes struck each other, the monstrous Boeing 727 exploded into a quiet residential nook, splattering wreckage throughout four city blocks of the neighborhood we call North Park. The impact was literally earth-shaking – powerful enough to register several ticks on the Richter earthquake scale. It took the thunder ball all of three seconds to incinerate 22 houses and a dozen cars – as well as trees, front porches, power lines, telephone poles and a playful little pit bull lounging on a lawn. The human toll was unspeakable: 128 passengers. Seven flight crew. Seven more in homes and cars. Two pilots in the Cessna on a city street not far away. The carnage was – as the National Transportation Safety Board determined – the ugly result of three tiny human errors that occurred within a frighteningly brief period of time. Sometimes that’s all it takes. A year later the NTSB report would say this:
The causes of the crash were threefold:
- • The PSA flight crew did not advise the control tower that they had lost sight of the smaller plane, after initially answering that they had the Cessna in sight
- • The pilots of the Cessna failed to maintain their assigned heading, as instructed by the tower
- • The ATC controller failed to advise the airliner that the Cessna had veered toward its glide path, even though his warning alert had sounded, telling him the planes were on a collision course
And so it all came to this, and a quiet California neighborhood now resembled your worst vision of ground zero.
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A Southern California dentist was arrested last week on three charges of Arson. Apparently he figured the best way to get more business was to burn down the competition.
According to the Sheriff’s Department in Ventura County, just north of Los Angeles, Doctor Leopold Weinstein, age 63, was taken into custody on suspicion of setting multiple fires at dental offices in the city of Camarillo. The offices were owned and operated by other dentists.
Investigators state the case began last June, when suspicious flammable chemicals were discovered on the roof of a dental clinic. Within two weeks another dentist’s office was set on fire. When the daffy doc actually returned to the scene of the first crime, he was caught on camera setting fire to the building.
According to Arson Investigator Michael Rompal, Weinstein became the primary suspect when police learned that his car was seen near one of the offices at an unusual time. An unnamed witness used his cell phone to snap a picture of the license plate and sent it to police. That vehicle was identical to those identified at the other arson locations.
Weinstein now sits in Ventura County Jail, awaiting his court date next week.
Until his arrest Weinstein operated Spanish Hills Dental Group in Camarillo.
Here’s more on this lab coat lunatic:
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According to his rather polished website, this nutcase supports numerous community programs, including the Ventura County Firefighters’ Association.
We can’t think of a better way to support firefighters than to sneak around town at night setting fires.
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