Paramedic alleges he was fired for listening to patient who refused treatment

Kristine Solomon
Style and Beauty Writer

A former paramedic has filed a lawsuit against the medical center where he was employed before his supervisor fired him allegedly for respecting the wishes of a patient who refused an emergency medical procedure.

Michael Senisch told CBS Philly that in February 2016, he was called to the Mays Landing, N.J., home of Wendy Johnson, who was suffering from a severe infection. Johnson was too frail for Senisch to properly insert an IV into her arm, so he informed her that he’d have to resort to inserting an IO intraosseous infusion, which would require using a drill-like device to insert the IV into her bone instead of her vein.

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But Wendy, who believed in holistic healing, refused the treatment. “She said, ‘IV yes, IO no, period,'” Wendy’s husband, Brian Johnson, told CBS Philly. “And I said, ‘Well, that’s my wife’.”

The paramedic decided to respect Wendy’s wishes — denying recommended treatment is referred to as informed consent — and called off the IO procedure. Instead, he offered to administer a holistic treatment called Reiki, as he is certified in the practice, and she accepted.

She was so happy that [Senisch] was somebody who understood her belief system,” Michelle Douglass, one of the attorneys representing Senisch, told Yahoo Lifestyle. “It calmed her and made her feel better, and Brian was grateful.”

But the doctor who treated Wendy when she arrived at AtlantiCare did not see the situation the same way. Senisch said he was reprimanded for not following medical protocol. The doctor then administered the IO to the patient despite her protestations, which Douglass claims was a violation of the Patient Bill of Rights, a state law that requires medical professionals to give a full explanation of any invasive procedure they plan on performing, detailing the pros, cons and risks. The patient then has the right to consent or refuse, said Douglass.

Three days after the incident, Senisch said he was fired — and because paramedics in New Jersey are required to practice under the license of a supervising doctor, he currently cannot practice. Douglass told Yahoo Lifestyle that Senisch is currently working as a physician’s assistant, making a lower wage, and can possibly miss out on his pension benefits after 34 years as a paramedic. 

Senisch is now suing AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center for wrongful termination, and the case will go to trial May 13.

Even Brian defends Senisch’s decision to treat his wife with Reiki, and does not believe the paramedic deserved to be fired. “He did everything correctly,” Brian told CBS Philly, “according to what they should do to service the community that they’re going to service.” Douglass added that the IO was not “a life-or-death situation,” as it was meant to administer saline, not medication, to Wendy.

Brian confirmed that Wendy died of complications from stage 4 cancer about a month after Senisch responding to her emergency call. The husband is now working with Senisch’s attorneys to help clear the paramedic’s name and to “make him whole again,” said Douglass.

And Senisch stands firm in his decision more than three years later. “I thought I did the right thing,” he told CBS Philly. Douglass said that even if Wendy had not been a holistic practitioner, it’s reasonable to believe she would have refused the IO.

A representative for AtlantiCare called Senisch’s claims of wrongful termination “untrue,” and released the following statement:

“The lawsuit filed in 2016 by a former paramedic contains a number of claims that are simply untrue,” a statement from AtlantiCare reads. “It is unfortunate that the former paramedic and his attorney waited until now, only weeks before jury selection, to publicize his false allegations in the media. We look forward to presenting the actual facts of the case to a jury in a few weeks. The care and safety of our patients is always our highest priority. Until we have the opportunity to share the facts of this case in an impartial court of law, we will refrain from commenting further.”

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