Western Standard

The Shotgun Blog

« Wine Musings From 2010 | Main | Googlegate conspiracy debunked. Thanks to me. »

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Doctor Given Speeding Ticket While Trying to Save Life

The law is truly an ass:

While Jeffrey Halstrom was fighting for his life on a St. Michael’s Hospital operating table, the surgeon who had been rushing to his rescue was waiting at the side of a road for a police officer to write him a ticket for speeding.

Halstrom, who is recovering in hospital, suffered a massive heart attack around lunchtime Saturday. A short time later, Dr. Michael Kutryk, the hospital’s cardiologist on call over the weekend, was stopped by a radar unit.

But no amount of pleading would deter the officer from issuing the physician a $300 ticket, said Michael Oscars, Halstrom’s longtime partner.

Now the intelligent thing, which seems not to have entered the mind of the radar wielding bureaucrat, would have been to accompany the doctor to the hospital. If the doctor was lying then the officer could charge him with speeding, as well as possibly public mischief. Naturally, the officer's colleagues are circling the wagons:

“This is an issue of public safety,” Mark Pugash, spokesperson for Toronto Police, said today. “If in the middle of winter you have someone driving at twice the speed limit, they present a risk to themselves and others.” 

So if that's the case, the risk of speeding is greater than the risk of a heart attack, then why do officers speed to emergency calls? Indeed an officer is legally entitled to speed when on duty, even if not rushing to the scene of a call. If speeding is really that dangerous, why not forbid even emergency vehicles to do so? Yes, officers received better training than ordinary drivers, but if the question is training why not grant exceptions to those with such training? Or even simply to doctors and nurses in clear emergency situations? Like this one.

Mr. Pugash noted there are hundreds of doctors on call at any time in the city of Toronto who manage to be on call while obeying the speed limits. He said he has spoken to a number of doctors, who all believe that issuing Dr. Kutryk a ticket was the right thing.

Yes, but most of those are are not in life and death situations, where every minute is vital. Instead the doctor was needlessly detained while the officer wrote the ticket. On a side note, I know that part of Toronto and the speed limit of 40 km/h is artificially low. Which naturally makes it a perfect place for a speed trap. The weather that day was also mild and the roads dry.

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 17, 2010 | Permalink


You got to wonder how embarrassed they feel behind closed doors. They always seem to make pathetic excuses for their actions, I guess Toronto is no different than any other gov't bureaucracy.

Floyd from TX

Posted by: Floyd Looney | 2010-01-17 2:45:47 PM

Hmmm.... must be a slow news day for you to grasp for this straw.

"...why do officers speed to emergency calls?"

Because it's not nearly as dangerous when they do it, which you admit two sentences later: "Yes, officers received better training than ordinary drivers..." You also forgot to mention that often police cars have flashing lights and sirens that ordinary cars don't have.

"... but if the question is training why not grant exceptions to those with such training?"

Logistics and frequency of need are two good reasons. Police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks are three good examples of vehicles that might need to speed often enough to facilitate it. But when it comes to others (and especially non-business vehicles) it becomes not worth doing.

"Or even simply to doctors and nurses in clear emergency situations?"

See above on training and frequency of need.

This was almost an unfortunate situation, but the answer is not to just let doctors speed. Nor is it to bitch about doctors not being allowed to speed.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2010-01-17 2:54:12 PM

Still trying Fact Check?

Logistics? Really that's the best you can come up with?

It's not about doctors, it's about making reasonable exceptions to rules. No one is talking about granting doctors free passes in all circumstances. My point was that the logic of the police PR flack was inconsistent. In life and death emergencies rules are bent and broken. The cops do it all the time. It's a consideration that should be extended to all citizens.

My own suspicion is that the cop was a rookie, and was afraid of getting in trouble with his superiors if he let the driver off. A more experience officer would have escorted the doctor to the hospital.

Posted by: Publius | 2010-01-17 3:04:56 PM

Silly Pubis!

"Logistics? Really that's the best you can come up with?"

No, and if you read again, you will see that this was not my answer.

"A more experience officer would have escorted the doctor to the hospital."

Yes. I agree. You will notice (if you can read) that nothing I wrote before said that escorting the doctor to the hospital would not have been a good idea. But he could have both escorted the doctor and given him a ticket.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2010-01-17 3:31:27 PM

But he could have both escorted the doctor and given him a ticket.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2010-01-17 3:31:27 PM

I believe that is a ticket that would be thrown out of any court and the media would have a hayday with the story. I also think it was a rookie going by the book. Park your logic and do what your told.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-01-17 4:08:26 PM

I am assumming as always because they always are, that the facts of the story are incorrect. I think its about the doctor thinking he was the exeception to the rule, and the hyperbolic writer taking liberties as usual with the truth about the guy "dying" on the operating table when it was probably day surgery and he was already there and the doctor late.
I just plain hate cops so I disagree with the revenue generating technique by virtue of the premise of safer streets, Puk everybody get out of the way if you want to live.:))

Three wrongs fusing into hyperbole

Posted by: Vegan Philosopher | 2010-01-17 4:31:34 PM

Actually the cop could have called in to the hospital to confirm the doctor's statement and then escorted him to the hospital to ensure he arrived safely. Of course that would only happen in a non collectivist state.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-01-17 6:15:01 PM

Police Officers are generally uneducated and stupid hicks.

Posted by: PM | 2010-01-17 6:42:09 PM

Hey, PM its great to see that you don't jump to conclusions about groups of people based on their occupation! If I were to take the full measure of you then I would describe you as a pompous loudmouth oaf. Some people work as cops, some work as firemen, some work as plumbers, but I guess that respecting them(instead of turning your nose up) is too much for someone like you. Your parents should be ashamed that they produced an offspring like you. You are a walking ad for birth control!

Posted by: Garth | 2010-01-17 7:42:44 PM

Tough one. But I lean towards the cops side. The doctor mentioned happened to be the patient's significant other.

The Canadian Medical Association says that treatment of family members should be limited to minor or emergency care or instances when another physician is not available. And in the US, the AMA Code of Medical Ethics states that "physicians generally should not treat themselves or members of their immediate families" because their professional objectivity may be compromised in those situations. Exceptions are allowed for "short-term, minor problems" or "in emergency or isolated settings."

The American College of Physicians (ACP) Ethics Manual similarly asserts that "physicians should avoid treating themselves, close friends or members of their own families." It goes on to comment that "physicians should be very cautious about assuming the care of closely associated employees."

Using the above as a guide, then Dr. Kutryk may have done more harm than good.

Posted by: Shawn | 2010-01-17 11:02:54 PM


The doctor was not the patient's significant other. The article doesn't say that. Other articles identify the patient's partner and its not the doctor.

Posted by: Publius | 2010-01-18 6:20:37 AM

"Tough one. But I lean towards the cops side"

Why would anybody "lean towards" consitent liars who are what amounts to jack boot thugs.
It is no mistake peolple don't like the police, it is an environment they created in their actions.
They are unionized liars building an army with our money to deny us rights. They are the sharpest of the double edged sword ever.

Posted by: Vegan Philosopher | 2010-01-18 8:28:41 AM

Vegan, you are right.

Posted by: TM | 2010-01-18 1:39:04 PM

If the doctor was "on call", why was he not already available, on call, at the hospital?

Posted by: po'ed in AB | 2010-01-19 8:03:36 AM

I'm a cardiology resident, and I am quite familiar with this medical situation. What the story describes suggests the patient had a heart attack in which a major coronary artery was completely blocked. In this day and age this would trigger an emergency response in which members of the cath lab team (inteventional cardiologist, nurses, technicians) would rush into hospital, take the patient to the cath lab and open the blocked artery by threading a balloon through the blockage and inflating it. The goal is to acheive a door (when the patient first gets in contact with health services) to balloon (artery is opened) of less than 90 minutes, although the sooner the better. This is one of very few medical emergencies in which every minute counts. The time it probably took the officer to run Dr. Kutryk's info and give him the ticket would have been at least 15-20 minutes, endangering the patients life. The interventional cardiologist (Dr. Kutryk in this case) would be on home call. Meaning he would not be in the hospital but would need to come in if this emergency occured. The excuse provided "Mr. Pugash noted there are hundreds of doctors on call at any time in the city of Toronto who manage to be on call while obeying the speed limits." does not apply in this case because of the time sensitivity in this situation. Most of the time if a doctor on call needed to come to the hospital it would not be for such emergencies. As such, I think the police officer should have escorted Dr. Kutryk right away instead of giving him a ticket.

Posted by: Double B | 2010-01-24 6:24:07 PM

"Dr. Kutryk right away instead of giving him a ticket."

Posted by: Double B | 2010-01-24 6:24:07 PM

As a very wise man once said, " stupid is as stupid does". Cops are no exception.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-01-27 10:51:38 PM

This is just outrageous. There is only one reason that you are allowed to speed and that is when someone is deathly ill or injured. I consider having a massive heart attack to be near death. Who ever this police officer is should be reprimanded or even fired. Dr. Kutryk should fight the speeding ticket in court. Anyone with half a brain would put their money on Dr. Kutryk winning. I worked as a lawyer for 20-years. While I was an intern, I helped prosecute many speeders. Collecting my experiences, I wrote a book on how to beat a speeding ticket. You can get it free visiting my website http://speedingticketbeater.com/
and joining my newsletter.

Posted by: Wallace Kline | 2010-03-23 7:46:43 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.