Nannie Lawrence remembers her 2-year-old granddaughter as a playful and precocious toddler, trying on her mother’s wigs and changing her own clothes.
Stephanie Stephens died after paramedics refused to take her to the hospital Feb. 10 in the first of two visits to her home after she experienced breathing problems. Her death has prompted a rare criminal investigation and raised questions about ambulance policies in Washington and emergency care for children nationwide.
After the paramedics recommended she be taken into a bathroom to inhale steam from a running shower, Stephanie’s family called back hours later and an EMS crew took her to a hospital. The child died from pneumonia the next day.
“All we know is, the baby was gone, and she was the sweetest thing,” the 68-year-old Lawrence said.
D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Chief Dennis L. Rubin said an internal review of the case revealed some “abnormalities.” He referred the case to the D.C. attorney general, who passed it to police.
“The mere fact that the mother wanted the child transported, it was our obligation to transport the child,” said Rubin, who now is reinforcing long-standing policy that a patient has a right to be taken to a hospital.
Following Stephanie’s death, Rubin said he is working to drive home that key point: providers never decline transport.
His staff is developing a “patient’s bill of rights” to be posted in every ambulance and producing a new training video underscoring that message. In addition, the policy has been expanded to cover instances in which a patient refuses to be transported, including the requirement that responders get an OK from a supervisor and have a witness, such as a police officer, confirm the patient’s decision.