Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

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Apparent DNA Transfer by Paramedics Leads to Wrongful Imprisonment

 
Gloves on. Scene safe.

We are taught to repeat that as if there is some connection between the two.

If there is a violent patient on scene, will wearing gloves provide safety? Probably not.

Gloves are intended to do one very limited thing – provide a temporary barrier between our hands and whatever we touch.
 

DNA transferred by a paramedic may have led to an innocent man being jailed for months in a South Bay murder case, despite being hospitalized several miles away when the crime occurred.[1]

 

Gloves are often inadequate BSI (Body Substance Isolation), but we act as if wearing gloves will protect against everything; as if wearing gloves somehow produces a force field around the body that protects parts of the body not covered by the gloves; as if gloves do not tear or break down and need to be replaced on the job; as if gloves make up for not cleaning our hands; as if touching clipboards and other equipment with gloves on is doing anything other than spreading germs all over the equipment that we will later pick up without gloves on; as if gloves need to be worn for every patient.

Do gloves need to be worn for every patient?
 


Guidance for the Selection and Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in Healthcare Settings CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
 

According to the CDC – Not every patient.

According to the CDC – Not every time.
 

Do gloves prevent us from transferring DNA from one patient to another?

Absolutely not.

Gloves are a barrier, but only for our hands.

Our hands make up about 2% of our body surface area and 0% of our clothing.

Everything else is exposed to patient contact/DNA contact/bloodborne pathogen contact.
 

On that night, Anderson was at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose with a blood alcohol level of .40, five times the legal limit. Authorities said he was passed out, stone cold drunk.

How did Anderson’s DNA end up on Kumra’s body? Authorities said the two paramedics that picked up Anderson, who was living on the streets, were at the murder scene a short time later.[1]

 

How could DNA (DeoxyriboNucleic Acid) get from one patient to another by means of EMS?

The previous patient probably was not very helpful in getting on the stretcher by himself.

We often shed hair and skin. Intoxicated patients often produce other substances, such as vomit. DNA might have ended up on one of the paramedics in a place that was not noticed. When assessing the murdered patient, they might have accidentally transferred something containing DNA.

Even wearing a gown leaves large parts of us exposed.
 


 

The bigger question is how much money is Santa Clara County going to pay for locking up someone with an airtight alibi for 5 months.
 

This is likely the first documented case in the country involving a paramedic transferring DNA. The defense said this case shows science is not always a slam dunk.[1]

 

The science was not wrong.

The interpretation of what it means is what was wrong.

If there is DNA from a person at the scene of a crime, but the person could not possibly have committed the crime, because plenty of unbiased witnesses place him somewhere else, then the DNA arrived at the scene at some other time or by some other means.

Science is not magic. Science is the opposite of magic. Science is what explains why magic is an illusion.

Footnotes:

[1] South Bay Paramedics Likely Brought Innocent Man’s DNA To Murder Scene
June 28, 2013 12:41 AM
sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com
Article

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Comments

  1. Nothing spells ridiculous more than providers who hop out of their engine wearing gloves. Lord knows what germs they’re bringing as a gift to their soon to be patient. It amazes me how quick readers are to criticize a magazine for pictures of firefighters without helmets, SCBA, or the proper tools yet, never have a seen a letter complaining about inappropriate use of medical PPE. Take a look at any EMS magazine. You’ll see providers carrying bags while wearing gloves, pushing stretchers while wearing gloves, hooking up oxygen while wearing gloves, writing out paperwork wearing gloves, talking on radios while wearing gloves, blah, blah, blah. Gloves are for people, not equipment. Every one of these actions would be flagged in a hospital or health care facility and the employee counseled. Time to get with the program in EMS.

  2. why not use disposable gloves? if you throw away the gloves after every patient, there is no chance of transferring DNA… ( and getting gowns sterilised before reusing them would probabyl be a good idea too) especialyl since (at the very minimum) it causes a risk of transferring bacteria, etc from one patient to another. ( the same basic issue is why, befote the invention of antisceptic, death rates in hospitals were stubbornly high. Doctors frequently wore bloodstained gowns, etc. unsurprisingly, Patients didn’t always die of the complaint they were admitted on.

  3. This was sloppy work. Not so much by the paramedics as it was by the prosecution and the police. Witnesses who know that the suspect could not possibly be at the crime scene should have raises suspicions that there was something wrong with the DNA evidence.

    In many cases I never had to touch the patient, so I didn’t wear gloves. On calls where I did have to touch the patient, I often went through several pairs on a call.

    • Too Old To Work,

      This was sloppy work. Not so much by the paramedics as it was by the prosecution and the police. Witnesses who know that the suspect could not possibly be at the crime scene should have raises suspicions that there was something wrong with the DNA evidence.

      I agree. It suggests that they do not understand the way DNA evidence works.

      In many cases I never had to touch the patient, so I didn’t wear gloves. On calls where I did have to touch the patient, I often went through several pairs on a call.

      That is the way we are supposed to use gloves – as needed, which may mean several pairs of gloves or no gloves.

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