What killed Portland man in hospital parking lot?

Portland man, Birgilio Marin-Fuentes, 61, died from a heart attack in the early hours of February 10, 2011. But was it heart disease that really took his life?

As the media exploits this situation by reporting a variety of information (some true, some speculation), the one thing we know for real is that he left a wife behind who is now mourning his loss. To lose a  family member is devastating and the pain never ceases, but to lose one in a situation that could have been prevented, leaves one thinking ‘what if’ something different happened.

What if Birgilio’s wife, Claudia Luis Garcia, drove him to the hospital? What if he hadn’t run into the pillar? What if the police had got to him minutes earlier? What if the ER staff ran out immediately and took him into the hospital? Would he have survived?

Portland Adventist Medical Center
Portland Adventist Medical Center

Was the pillar in the parking lot or the parking garage? The story varies from source to source. As a concerned citizen and a senior advocate for the State of Oregon Long-Term Care Ombudsman office and Volunteers of America, I immediately contacted the Board of Medicine, the Board of Patient Safety, and the hospital where this took place, Portland Adventist Medical Center at 10123 Southeast Market Street.

Here is my (accusatory) letter to the hospital:
I am writing as a concerned member of the community. This morning’s death is inexcusable. Your policy needs to change. Sending a gurney to the parking lot cannot be a liability. You need to take a close look at your liability insurance. If the guy had gotten closer to the door, I hope that you would not have let him die on your doorstep. If a doctor was available, he/she should be held liable for breaking the Hippocratic oath.

And here is the response from Portland Adventist:
Thank you for your comments, I can certainly understand your concern. However, it is NOT our policy to avoid going outside to help. In fact we regularly go outside to help our patients, as we did in this instance. We did also ask the police officer involved to call for an ambulance as they have the tools needed to safely extract a person from a car accident. Please see our website – http://www.adventisthealthnw.com/ – for clarification of some of the facts. Perhaps by now you’ve also seen some of the more complete stories from places like KOIN 6.

The lesson here is that facts are never revealed immediately or accurately by the media. It is up to investigators to find out what really happened. According to Oregonlive and KGW news,  US Congressman Earl Blumenauer called for an investigation and will also be following up with all hospitals in Oregon to “make sure they understand their legal and moral obligations,” says Blumenauer.

Birgilio Marin-Fuentes
Birgilio Marin-Fuentes, 61

Without a face to this terrible event, we cannot truly comprehend a human’s life was lost during this confusion.

Black men are at the highest risk for heart disease, and heart disease is the cause of 100,000 African-American deaths per year according to the American Heart Association (AHA). I have contacted AHA, which advocates for prevention and treatment of heart disease. Heart disease is nothing new, but everyday there are new studies that show ways to prevent and treat this disease.

It is in the hands of our trained professionals to help in emergency situations. We can only hope that this unfortunate incident helps a much needed reform in emergency response as well as treatments for those with heart disease. Advocates are needed to work towards this reform. The media needs to recognize and report that good can come from tragedy. Reporting bad news creates a frenzy of accusation. The truth takes time to be revealed.


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