Colorado EM Workers Not to Use Ketamine Injection for Erratic Behavior

A Colorado panel has halted the use of ketamine injection by emergency workers towards people displaying erratic behavior in a crisis incident. 

The ruling, which was announced Monday, centers around the death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain, who was injected with ketamine when he was stopped by the Colorado Police in August 2019 

According to the Department of Justice/Drug Enforcement Administration, ketamine can cause hallucinogenic effects by distorting sight and sound and cause a sense of disconnection. 

The DEA also states the drug is used on humans and animals. Ketamine can induce a state of sedation (feeling calm and relaxed), immobility, relief from pain, and amnesia (no memory of events while under the influence of the drug). 

Colorado emergency workers injected McClain with the drug as a sedative because he exhibited “excited delirium.” 

McClain was diagnosed with excited delirium in 2009, however, a medical panel said the diagnosis is open to interpretation and has been “associated with racial bias against African American men.” 

RelatedPolice Reform Sparked by Elijah McClain’s Death Advances in Colorado 

“It has subjective and non-medical criteria such as hyper-aggression, increased strength and police noncompliance—all of which are very subjective and inherently biased,” said Dr. Lesley Brooks, a family and addiction medicine physician on the panel. 

In August 2019, McClain was walking back from an Aurora convenience store when someone called the police and said he was allegedly acting suspiciously.  

According to reports, McClain had a blood circulation disorder and had on a ski mask for added warmth. 

When police arrived, McClain was put in a chokehold twice and several officers placed all their body weight on the143-pound Black male. Paramedics then injected McClain with 500mg of ketamine. 

McClain went into cardiac arrest while being transported to the hospital and died in the hospital a week later after he was declared brain dead. 

RelatedFamily of Elijah McClain to Receive $15M From City of Aurora 

In the announcement by the Colorado panel, it was key to point out bias and structural racism that influences decisions by paramedics to inject people with ketamine. 

“Given the dialogue that our country has been having… we understand that bias exists in a variety of places both implicit and explicit and it exists in health care,” Dr. Brooks said. 

If you or someone you know is struggling from trauma triggered by this story, resources are available here.   

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