Hospitals have always been safe havens, a place one can go to be healed and protected, but the safe status of hospitals has been declining over the years do to the increased hiring of armed guards and off-duty police officers. Twenty-six year-old Alan Pean discovered the devastating effects of hospital guards carrying weapons when he was shot in the chest in his Texas hospital room after seeking help for his bipolar disorder. Two-off duty police officers, moonlighting as security guards, first assaulted Mr. Pean with a Taser and quickly graduated to firing a bullet into his chest, only millimeters from his heart. Mr. Pean initially admitted to having manic episodes, but the nurses ignored him and chose to treat him as a patient without any mental issues. When Mr. Pean began to act out, security was called and he was shot.
Alan Pean’s story is not an isolated incident. On the same day Mr. Pean was shot, another patient with mental health problems was shot by an off-duty police officer in Ohio. A month before Mr. Pean was admitted to the hospital, a security guard shot a patient with bi-polar polar disorder in Virginia. Guns are appearing in hospitals because of increased violence, according to a survey by the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety, health care institutions reported a 40% increase in violent crime, with more than 10,000 incidents directed at employees. The response hospitals are taking against this increase in violent crime is to arm security guards. 52% of medical centers reported that their security personnel carried handguns and 47% said they used Tasers.
Alan Pean’s story first appeared in the New York Times in February 2016, and was later picked up by NPR. The story never gained traction when published in the Times, but NPR helped communicate the story to their viewers. Mr. Pean and other patients who suffer from mental problems should not have to worry about being shot in their own hospital rooms, and their stories need to be heard. Hospital shootings will continue until the public understands and resists the militarized hospital complex.
Ira Glass, “When Your Hospital-Borne Infection Is a Bullet.” This American Life. February 12, 2016, http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/579/transcript.
Student Researcher: Neely Katz (University of Vermont)
Faculty Evaluator: Rob Williams (University of Vermont)