I Have No Words

To express the horror and grief I feel about the death of somebody I’ve never met.  Never even heard of until today, as I was surfing the internet.  Y’all might have heard of this story, but this is the first I heard of it.

Back on November 29, in the UK, a man by the name of Barry Baker suffered from chest pains and called emergency services.  While he was on the phone with the emergency operator, he collapsed.  The phone line stayed open, so the operator was able to hear what came next.  Allegedly, when the EMT’s came into his house, the first thing they noticed was the mess.  Some news reports say they (the EMT’s) were joking about the mess Mr. Baker’s house was in. 

A police source said the ambulancemen were then heard over the phone discussing Mr Baker and allegedly saying “words to the effect that he was not worth saving”.

I just cannot understand how two people could play god like that.  How two people could decide, just because a man’s house was messy (and it was, there are pictures showing just how messy it was if you want to google it), just because he was disabled, that “it was not worth bothering to try to carry out resuscitation to try to save him” (also from the above link).

The fact that he was fat, the fact he was physically disabled and walked with canes following a hip replacement surgery, the possible fact that he was mentally disabled (I’ve only seen one place that said that) is all irrelevant.

He was a human being in need of medical help, and people who were trained to help him allegedly decided he wasn’t worth helping.

I look at this story and I think of my Uncle, who was born with Downs Syndrome.  My Uncle is now 62.  My Uncle is also fat.  His weight gain came as a direct result of treatment for an overactive thyroid (they burned some of his thyroid away, which saved him from dying of starvation, even though he was eating as much as my Grandmother could force him to), but anybody looking at him wouldn’t know that.  They’d only see a fat, disabled man. 

Now, my Grandmother is still alive, and should she die before my Uncle, his welfare and care are taken care of.  He gets the house and sufficient moneys to pay utilities and food set up in trust for him in her will, and anybody in the family (and there’s four of us who said we’d do it) who lives with him gets to stay in the house rent free.  So he will be cared for.   My other Uncles and myself will make sure he’s cared for and that he gets to stay in his home.  And caring for him also means we will demand he be treated with respect. 

The difference between my Uncle and this man is that my Uncle would have people advocating for him. 

I know this isn’t the usual Friday post.  But this is something that needs to be seen all over the world.   People, no matter what their houses look like, no matter what their size, shape, bank account, ability or disability, deserve respect and compassion.  From everybody, really, but especially from the people who are hired to give quality medical care.

Barry Baker died because, allegedly, two people decided he just wasn’t worth the bother.

And this is what you get when you create a division of people which is “not us.”  All of the “us” (for whatever definition of “us” you use — rich, thin, intelligent, neat, clean, young, whatever) get to live and have compassion and respect.  All of the “not us” don’t.  It’s wrong, for any definition of “us” and “not us”.

Barry Baker was a human being who deserved a lot better than he received.  I hope the courts in the UK make the harshest example of the men who decided he wasn’t worth saving that they can.

7 Responses

  1. This is sad. I would wish that if he has family, they’d sue. I would on his behalf, but he’s gone now.

    I hope someone in the media creates enough outrage that these rescue personnel are reprimanded and possibly fired for loosing that key element, that of saving anyone and everyone, no matter what.

  2. At some point during the last year or two, there was a story about a woman who died while the paramedics were making snide remarks about her weight while her husband watched helplessly.

    I believe that happened in the UK as well.

    I wish I could remember the details so that I could link it, but I think you might be able to find a post about it in the Shapely Prose archives. I know there were many angry posts all over the fatosphere about it.

    I’d like to believe such stories are exceptions, but I know what kind of care fat people, especially ones with insufficient health insurance, receive from medical staff. I literally cry with gratitude when someone in a doctor’s office treats me with respect because it’s so rare.

  3. Heartbreaking. 😦 😦 😦

    Like your title says.. I have no other words. My heart just hurts to hear about such cruelty.

  4. Rest in peace, Barry. You deserved better than that.

  5. Yes twilightriver, there’s been a fair few cases like this of NHS doctors and medics making rude comments or neglecting their duty of care toward fat people. And it’s starting to spread to other public services too. I can only put it down to the toxic climate of fat hatred currently being promoted by the British Government and the constant anti-fat propaganda spewed out by our media (in one publication I check on a daily basis, there have been at least five obesity-related articles every day this week).

  6. richie79: All those stories were terrible, but something got me about the last one: “This was a mistake and the member of staff had no idea that the phone was still running.”

    So, it would have been okay for her to say those things if the phone hadn’t still been recording what she has to say? That’s wrong thinking. Yes, she wouldn’t have gotten caught if the phone hadn’t still been recording.

    But there is no call to call anybody names, use the (other) f-word. Especially by somebody in a position of power in an educational setting (even if she wasn’t a teacher).


  7. So very, very sad. I used to be a dispatcher for 911 services in my city. Had ANY of our paramedics made such a comment, they would have instantly been fired – at least once the word got back to the powers that be. Such inhumane treatment is a travesty. My heart goes out to the family. May he rest in peace.

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