One of the scarier aspects of public officials' attempts to whitewash some of the seedier facets of raves (young people passed out, overdosing and in need of physicians' care) was the revelation this week that at the next Electric Daisy Carnival party ODing partygoers will essentially be kept on-site instead of being sent to hospitals.
That's right. According to plans for the two-day event in June organizers will staff up with emergency room physicians in order to keep overdose victims in a medical tent at the venue.
Dr. Jeff Grange, who testified for the promoter at Wednesday's L.A. Coliseum Commision meeting, said the move would “prevent the unnecessary transports” to hospitals.
But here's the real politics behind this:
The four-times-per-year megaraves that happen at the publicly owned venues the commission controls — the Coliseum, where EDC is planned again, and the Sports Arena — regularly report shocking numbers of “transports” to area emergency rooms.
So much so that E.R. doctors say they get overwhelmed with ecstasy overdose victims.
This move would put a lid on those numbers and the associated bad press. In theory.
The last big party, the Sports Arena's Together As One on New Year's Eve, reported 17 transports to E.R.s.
The numbers don't look good in the media, and critics have pointed to them to argue that raves are inherently and predictably dangerous drug parties that shouldn't be sanctioned on public property.
Grange argues that it's safer to treat victims immediately and on-site — and this addresses local emergency rooms being flooded with patients. But it also sweeps those numbers under the rug.
And it brings on some interesting quandaries: What if a patient should be at a hospital? If she's incapacitated, how will on-site personnel know her wishes? Should ravers wear MedicAlert bracelets indicating their preference to be taken to a hospital should they O.D?
In fact, in a couple of noteworthy deaths at raves, family members and witnesses have said one of the factors in those tragedies was that party personnel did not send the victims to the hospital fast enough.
In the case of 20-year-old Michelle Yuenshan Lee, who died of an ecstasy overdose after attending the Monster Massive rave at the Sports Arena in 2007, witness Marcus Gaede said it took more than an hour to get her to a hospital.
He claims one factor is that staffers, once they realized the situation was critical, took back routes to get her out of the venue in order to conceal her condition from other partygoers.
The mother of 15-year-old Sasha Rodriguez, Grace Rodriguez, made a similar claim to the Weekly about her daughter's ecstasy-overdose death following her attendance at Electric Daisy Carnival last year.
“It took 20 minutes to get to my daughter,” she said Wednesday, “and 20 minutes to get her out.”
Grange touted “mini ambulances,” essentially golf carts and ATVs, that he said would bring the “over beveraged” to a medical tent.
Under EDC's new plans it looks like some victims might not ever get out.
“We'll watch them,” Grange said. ” … If they completely sober up we'll discharge them.”
Sounds a little like an overdose prison to us.
Dr. Brian Johnston, head of the E.R. at White Memorial Hospital in Boyle Heights, which has certainly seen its share of ravers as a result of the megaves at the Coliseum and Sports Arena, seemed appalled by the strategy to keep patients away from hospitals (and out of the headlines).
“I think it's very questionable — the idea of treating them in something less than a full service E.R.,” he told the Weekly. “The basic question here is patient autonomy.”
“You could be dealing with a number of very serious problems,” he said. “Particularly with people taking ecstasy, you could have significant rhythm disturbances, seizures, hypothermia, and psychotic reactions.”
“These are very difficult patients to take care of,” Johnston says.
Sounds like the Coliseum Commission agrees, though, that the chaos of 150,000 people, many on drugs, is the best place to treat overdose victims.
“They need to be going to a fully capable facility,” Johnston said.
But hey, those “transports” that make headlines — they'll certainly go down. Let's just hope nobody dies “on-site.”