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Aurora officials to vote on sedative ban

City council members will vote on a 2-year ban on all chemical sedatives used to restrain patients as well as any new sedatives for medical purposes


The pushback to including droperidol in firefighters’ protocols has prompted Aurora, Colorado City Council members to call for a 3-year moratorium on all new sedatives.


Saja Hindi
The Denver Post

AURORA, Colo. — Aurora officials are debating how to regulate the use of sedatives by paramedics following the high-profile 2019 death of Elijah McClain, who died after a violent encounter with police that ended with paramedics injecting him with ketamine.

As two Aurora paramedics await trial for felony charges, including manslaughter, negligent homicide and assault, City Council members are grappling with how to manage the use of new medications that can be used as sedatives, including whether they should be allowed to be administered or if chemical restraints should be banned altogether. City Council members are expected to vote on a proposal Monday.

The administrative decision to include a new sedative — droperidol — into firefighters’ emergency services protocols and the pushback from the firefighters’ union had prompted City Council members Danielle Jurinsky and Curtis Gardner to call for a three-year moratorium on all new sedatives at a City Council study session Monday night.

Jurinsky said firefighters are afraid the use the new sedative, have something go wrong and potentially face charges (including manslaughter, negligent homicide and assault) like their colleagues, and Gardner said this was the wrong time to introduce a new sedative.

“A medical director, deputy city manager and a city manager are never going to stand trial for murder for administering this sedative. … What this has done to firefighters, specifically our fighters, is overwhelmingly change their morale and terrify them, terrify them into administering sedatives,” Jurinsky said.

Ultimately, council members approved moving a proposal to a vote for a two-year ban on all chemical sedatives used to restrain patients as well as any new sedatives for medical purpose — though they cannot take a vote until next week’s regular meeting. But Jurinsky told The Denver Post on Tuesday that the exact measure is still being worked on after continued discussions with everyone involved.

“I have no idea how it’s going to end up,” she said. “My hope is to find a way to make sure that the firefighters in Aurora, in their paramedic and medical capacity, are protected.”

Much of the discussion has centered around McClain’s death — paramedics injected the 23-year-old with what investigators said was an overdose of ketamine. A grand jury indicted two paramedics and three police officers on charges in McClain’s death, and the use of sedatives to restrain patients is under scrutiny, according to the measure’s sponsors.

Aurora Fire Rescue has since forbidden the use of ketamine, and a consent decree agreement between the attorney general and the city states that the department can’t use ketamine in the field without agreement from the consent decree monitor. Paramedics also have to make all medical decisions independently from the police.

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