EMS Workers Accused of Killing Patient Refused to Check Vital Signs

USA News


  • Prosecutors released new evidence against the Illinois EMS workers accused of killing their patient.
  • An audio recording from the ambulance showed one EMS worker refusing to take vital signs.
  • An expert told Insider the EMS workers’ treatment of their patient was “absolutely unjustifiable.”

The two EMS workers charged with first-degree murder in the death of their patient had refused to check his vitals after strapping him facedown in a stretcher, and described him as “combative” despite the fact that he was incapable of walking, prosecutors said in a preliminary hearing on Friday.

Peggy Finley, 44, and Peter Cadigan, 50, have both pleaded not guilty in the death of 35-year-old Earl Moore Jr., who was experiencing alcohol withdrawal when he called 911 for help on December 19, 2022. An autopsy report said Moore died due to positional asphyxia caused by being restrained in a facedown position.

Experts told Insider that Finley and Cadigan’s conduct was indefensible and that extensive medical research and EMS training protocols warn against restraining patients in a facedown position. Moore’s death has prompted scrutiny over the EMS workers and why they didn’t make any apparent efforts to provide basic medical care.

Prosecutors introduced new evidence against Finley and Cadigan on Friday, including an audio recording from the ambulance ride. In the audio, published by the local ABC affiliate WICS, Finley could be heard explaining to a hospital worker that she didn’t want to take Moore’s vitals.

“Patient is, well, he’s combative, he’s confused,” Finley said. “I’m not messing with getting vitals because I’m not going to poke the bear.”

Authorities released police body camera footage from Moore’s house earlier this month, which showed an irate Finley arriving at the scene and complaining that Moore — who was speaking incoherently and writhing on the floor — wasn’t walking to the stretcher on his own. 

“I am seriously not in the mood for this dumb s—,” Finley said at one point. Moore was eventually moved to the stretcher by multiple police officers, at which point Cadigan positioned him facedown and began strapping him in.

‘This was absolutely unjustifiable prone restraint’

Hahnah Williams, a nurse-turned-attorney who now represents healthcare practitioners, told Insider that from the moment Finley first began interacting with her patient, she appeared to second-guess the severity of Moore’s condition. Finley failed to assess Moore’s level of consciousness, his breathing and airways, and vital signs like his pulse and respiration rate.

“They’re assessing the situation by trying to make him stand up, saying they ‘don’t have time for this s—,’ which means that they think he’s being uncooperative or his behavior is purposeful…he’s faking it somehow,” Williams said. “They seem to have this perception of him, which obviously was a wrong perception. So where did that perception come from?”

Williams said it’s possible Finley and Cadigan could have been biased against Moore due to his race, his socioeconomic status, or even his status as a person with an alcohol addiction. 

Doug Wolfberg, a former EMT who is now an attorney representing EMS workers, told Insider that Finley and Cadigan handled the situation incorrectly from the get-go. Finley was more focused on her tablet than on Moore, and Cadigan remained outside the house with the stretcher rather than bringing a device that could have assisted in transporting Moore.

Wolfberg said there are some instances where it might be impossible to lay a patient on their back — if they had an object protruding from their back, for instance — but Moore’s case wasn’t one of them. 

“This was absolutely unjustifiable prone restraint — period, hard stop, end of sentence. No basis for prone restraint in this case,” he said.

Sangamon County State’s Attorney Dan Wright said as much in court on Friday.

“They clearly both take him to the hospital in the prone position with straps compressed so tightly that two ribs are fractured and he couldn’t breathe,” Wright said, according to footage of the hearing aired by WICS.

Finley and Cadigan’s defense attorneys have both argued that the first-degree murder charges are far too severe for their clients’ conduct. In Illinois, first-degree murder is defined as either a homicide with an intent to kill, or a homicide in which “he or she knows that such acts create a strong probability of death or great bodily harm.” 

“Mr. Moore’s death is a tragedy, and it’s potentially some form of injustice but it’s not murder. And Your Honor, you don’t cure one injustice by committing another injustice,” Justin Keuhn, who is representing Cadigan, said in court.



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