The Denver Post
The death of Aurora’s Elijah McClain spurred national calls for restrictions on first responders’ use of chemical restraints. His death also led to a new Colorado state law.
Signed Tuesday by Gov. Jared Polis, HB21-1251 bans police officers from directing paramedics and other medical professionals to use ketamine on someone. It requires those professionals to weigh people (or make a weight estimate confirmed by at least two other experts) before injecting someone with ketamine. The law also bars medical providers from using ketamine to subdue someone suspected of criminal behavior except in a justifiable medical emergency.
- Deaths Resulting from Ketamine Injection Rare, Study Indicates
- Ketamine Considerations for Prehospital Use
- Ketamine Use Draws New Scrutiny
- Ketamine’s Versatility Makes it a Powerful Tool for EMS
- Anesthesiologist Group Says Ketamine Protocols Should Be Reviewed
All these changes are directly inspired by McClain, who was violently arrested by police in 2019 and injected by paramedics who estimated his weight at 220 pounds. In fact, he only weighed 140 pounds, suffered cardiac arrest and was declared brain dead. He was later taken off life support.
In a statement, Polis said that chemical restraints like ketamine should be used only in “true medical emergencies” and police should not try to influence paramedics’ decision-making. He also noted the American Medical Association’s position that “excited delirium” is diagnosed subjectively — further reason, he said, for caution by first responders.
“That is why (the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) will place a hold on all ketamine waivers at this time in the setting of excited delirium” and release research findings on the topic later this summer, Polis added.
An initial version of this law proposed limitations on other drugs, and lawmakers said they considered banning ketamine instead of just restricting it. The bill was amended several times as it moved through the Capitol.
Denver Democratic Rep. Leslie Herod, a lead bill sponsor, said she thinks the final version is in a good place.
“We took a significant step forward in our state to improve policing and end the misuse of ketamine, which has had dangerous and deadly consequences for Coloradans,” she said in a statement.
This is one part of a broad package of laws on policing and public safety passed by the Democrats who run the state legislature this year. Several others in that package were also signed Tuesday.
(c)2021 The Denver Post
Visit The Denver Post at www.denverpost.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.