American Medical Association opposes ketamine use in law enforcement situations

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This November 2018 photo provided by the American Medical Association shows Gerald Harmon at the Interim Meeting of the AMA in National Harbor, Md. The nation’s largest, most influential doctors’ group is holding its annual policymaking meeting starting Friday, June 11, 2021, amid backlash over its most ambitious plan ever — to help dismantle centuries-old racism and bias in all realms of the medical establishment. Harmon, the group’s incoming president, knows he isn’t the most obvious choice to lead the AMA at this pivotal time. But he seems intent on breaking down stereotypes and said pointedly in a phone interview, “This plan is not up for debate.’’ (Ted Grudzinski/American Medical Association via AP)

CHICAGO (KDVR) — A new American Medical Association policy suggests the extremely agitated state many medics refer to as “excited delirium” is not a legitimate “official” medical diagnosis and does not warrant the use of pharmacological interventions, like the use of ketamine, “solely” for law enforcement purposes, without a legitimate medical reason.

“For far too long, sedatives like ketamine and misapplied diagnoses like ‘excited delirium’ have been misused during law enforcement interactions and outside of medical settings – a manifestation of systemic racism that has unnecessarily dangerous and deadly consequences for our Black and Brown patients,” said AMA President-elect Gerald E. Harmon, M.D, in a press release.

The Fox31 Problem Solvers have uncovered and reported on various cases in which ketamine was used to sedate someone in Colorado after they were involved in a police situation, including the cases of Elijah McClain, Elijah McKnightJeremiah AxtellHunter Barr, and Steven Reycraft.

McClain and Barr later died.

A coroner could not determine McClain’s cause of death but said it was possible McClain suffered an adverse reaction to the drug, among many other possibilities.

Medical professionals also reported McClain was suffering from the initial stages of “excited delirium” in their patient care report.

“As physicians and leaders in medicine, it is our duty to define the medical terms that are being used to justify inappropriate and discriminatory actions by non-health care professionals. The adoption of this policy represents an urgent step forward in our efforts to remove obstacles that interfere with safe, high quality medical care – and makes clear that the AMA will continue to aggressively confront all forms of racism or police violence against our patients in marginalized and minoritized communities,” he said.

A medical examiner ruled the cause of Barr’s death to be the result of the toxic effects of ketamine in the setting of his LSD and cough suppressant intoxication.

According to the press release, “the new policy urges law enforcement and frontline emergency medical service (EMS) personnel, who are a part of the “dual response” in emergency situations, to participate in training   overseen by EMS medical directors that minimally includes de-escalation techniques and the appropriate use of pharmacological intervention for agitated individuals in the out-of-hospital setting. The policy also urges medical and behavioral health specialists – instead of law enforcement – to serve as first responders and decision-makers in medical and mental health emergencies. It calls for the administration of any pharmacological treatments in an out-of-hospital setting to be done equitably, in an evidence-based, anti-racist, and stigma-free way.”

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