Paramedics robbed teen of chance to survive by not taking wound seriously: Crown

·4 min read

Two former Hamilton paramedics robbed a fatally wounded teen of his chance to survive by letting their belief that he wasn't seriously injured override their training and the standards of their profession, prosecutors argued Thursday.

In their closing submissions, prosecutors argued Christopher Marchant and Steven Snively approached Yosif Al-Hasnawi on the night of Dec. 2, 2017, with the "preconceived notion" that he had suffered only a superficial injury from a BB or pellet gun.

"They found Yosif lying down on the sidewalk, appearing to be in pain, unable to get up, altered and confused, and saying he could not breathe," with his distraught father and brothers nearby, Crown attorney Linda Shin said in a virtual hearing.

"Despite finding Yosif in this condition, they ignored what their profession trained and required them to do. Their conduct was motivated by their subjective belief that Yosif was over-embellishing and acting, that he was faking."

The 19-year-old had in fact been shot with a handgun and died in hospital about an hour later, court has heard.

Marchant and Snively have pleaded not guilty to failing to provide the necessaries of life to the teen.

Defence lawyers have said Marchant and Snively had an "honest" belief that Al-Hasnawi had been shot with a BB gun, and that it was reasonable for them to believe so, given the information they received from first responders and witnesses. The two men had also observed the injury, with one of them saying it looked like a scab that had been picked, defence lawyers said.

The paramedics' actions may not have been perfect, the defence argued, but they do not constitute a "marked departure" from the standards of care when considered in the context of that belief.

On Thursday, the Crown rejected the suggestion that it was a reasonable belief in light of the "training, standards and policies that applied."

All the medical experts who testified at trial agreed the extent of a penetrating wound to the abdomen may not be visible from the outside, and that there is no way to tell the depth of such a wound by sight in the field, she said.

She noted that for paramedics in Ontario, once it's determined that someone suffered a penetrating wound to the abdomen, the weapon involved is "not a relevant consideration."

The fact that the paramedics didn't bring their equipment to Al-Hasnawi's side "clearly reveals they were not taking the call seriously before they even saw Yosif," Shin said.

Some witnesses heard the paramedics make comments to the effect that Al-Hasnawi was "acting" or "faking," though they could not necessarily say which of the accused it was, she said.

The manner in which Al-Hasnawi was lifted up and brought to the ambulance, the time it took to depart and the decision to bring him to St. Joseph's hospital instead of the trauma centre at Hamilton General also indicate Marchant and Snively did not take his injury seriously, the prosecutor said.

Shin also argued the paramedics did not examine the wound either on the sidewalk or in the ambulance, as the defence has said.

While it was reasonable for the paramedics to inquire about the possibility that Al-Hasnawi had consumed drugs or alcohol, believing that to be the primary concern rather than the "hole in his belly" was not, Shin said.

The defence has argued the paramedics chose St. Joseph's because they thought Al-Hasnawi was experiencing psychiatric distress. But Shin noted professional standards dictate that a wound to the abdomen takes precedence over any psychiatric concerns in choosing a hospital.

The paramedics stuck to their belief that Al-Hasnawi was exaggerating despite his obvious and continuous deterioration, she said.

Taken as a whole, Marchant and Snively's conduct was "grossly negligent," and constitutes a marked departure from what is expected of a paramedic, Shin said.

While a single act or omission on their part may not meet the threshold for criminal liability, "multiple acts, omissions and breaches point to something more than simple inadvertence or a momentary lapse," she said.

The trial is proceeding by judge alone and a verdict is expected June 8.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2021.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press