Did Negligence by 911 Operator Contribute to Woman’s Massachusetts Choking Death on a Marshmallow?

The family of Catherine “Kate” Gill is trying to determine whether they have grounds for a Massachusetts wrongful death claim against the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office. Gill died after choking on a marshmallow on September 4, 2010.

Her fiance, Brett McFarland, says he woke up in the middle of the night and found Gill on the floor choking. He called 911 for help, but claims that the call lasted 12 minutes and that the dispatcher didn’t provide him with any instructions on how to save Gill’s life. In a recording of the conversation, McFarland can be heard screaming during periods when the dispatcher was silent. Emergency workers eventually arrived at the scene but they were unable to revive Gill.

Dispatcher Sgt. Rhonda Colburn of the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office’s handled McFarland’s emergency call. She left her job last December after the sheriff acknowledged that she failed to follow protocol during McFarland’s 911 call.

An investigation into what happened during the call and what went wrong is under way. Gill’s parents also want to know what training the dispatcher received and what procedures should have been implemented/weren’t followed on the night of their daughter’s accident.

Unfortunately, 911 dispatchers can make mistake, and in cases where an emergency is involved this can make the difference between life and death. Failure to take down the right information (such as the address where the emergency is taking place), delayed response in contacting and police, firefighters, or medical emergency workers, failure to obey protocol and procedures, operator inexperience, failure to provide instructions that may keep the incident from becoming worse, and other errors or oversights can contribute to serious Boston personal injury or wrongful deaths that could have been otherwise prevented (if only the dispatcher or others involved had done their jobs correctly).

Mashpee choking death one year ago, Cape Cod Times, September 4, 2011
Dispatcher Who Fielded Mashpee 911 Choking Call Resigns From County Sheriff Department, CapeNews.net, January 31, 2010

Related Web Resource:

Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Medical Malpractice Lawsuit To Be Filed By Family of Worcester Man Made to Walk Down Stairs by Paramedics, Boston Injury Lawyer Blog, April 27, 2009
Boston Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against American Medical Response After Ambulance Patient is Dropped on Her Head, Boston Injury Lawyer Blog, February 16, 2011
$7M Boston Medical Malpractice Verdict Awarded in Newborn’s Massachusetts Wrongful Death, Boston Injury Lawyer Blog, August 31, 2011
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