Monday, April 18, 2016

ABC7 Sarasota: Police department spent $6,500 for controversial anti-choking plunger

This investigative report by reporter Kate Flexter aired on the ABC-TV affiliate in Sarasota, FL, on the 7pm News on April 7, 2016. Below the screen, I've included a partial transcript.

The LifeVac is designed to remove a blockage in someone's throat during a choking incident when all other lifesaving attempts have failed.

...The issue is the device has not technically been approved by the Food and Drug Administration because it doesn't have to be. The FDA tells ABC7 that LifeVac is registered as a moderate-risk device which makes it "exempt from the clearance and approval process."

But some doctors we talked to say it should be tested more thoroughly and is potentially dangerous. We showed the training video for the device to the head of pediatrics at the Florida Hospital in Tampa, Dr. James Orlowski.

Orlowski: “It seems that the pressure that they use before sucking back could potentially drive the object further down into the airway.”

Dr. Orlowski says the pressure created by the device could potentially cause damage to other parts of the body in the process.

Orlowski: “If it can hold up a bowling ball, it can probably do a lot of damage to the airway and to other organs.”

Up until last week, no study on the device had been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. And for the study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine last week, the device was only tested on cadavers.

...(Last year the Sarasota Police Department) purchased 100 LifeVacs for $4,000 and spent about $2,500 on training officers. The department now has a LifeVac in each patrol car...

Sarasota is one of only two police departments in the nation that uses LifeVac. In a 2015 interview, (LifeVac inventor Arthur) Lih was quoted in the Florida publication Business Observer saying, “Sarasota has been the most receptive part of the country. This is our petri dish.”

Dr. Orlowski says using a community as a petri dish is disconcerting.

Orlowski: “I would have concerns with public services jumping onto something like this without looking into it more carefully and making sure that it can do what it’s supposed to do without doing any harm.”

The video's embedded on ABC7's Facebook page.

Here's the first comment from a viewer.

If Mr. Banagan sounds well-informed about the LifeVac, he ought to be:



After Ms. Flexter's report, ABC7 anchor/managing editor Alan Cohn hosted this round table discussion with Dr. Orlowski and LifeVac advocate osteopath William A. Holt of Port Charlotte, FL.

If Dr. Holt sounds well-informed about the LifeVac, he ought to be.

Via LifeVac's website: