Perspectives

Hostage

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.321.7276.1603 (Published 23 December 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:1603
  1. Anne E Tournay (atournay@mednet.ucla.edu), clinical assistant professor
  1. Division of Pediatric Neurology, UCLA Children's Hospital, 22-474 MDCC Box 951752, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1752, USA

Bang! Bang! Bang! It sounded like someone hitting a tea tray on a table, until I remembered that I was on the wrong side of the Atlantic for consultants to be served with tea and biscuits and screaming voices made me realise that the sounds were gunshots. My fellowship training in paediatric neurology entailed seeing some adult patients, and I had been called to consult in the emergency room at University of Southern California Medical Center, the largest acute care hospital in the United States, at midday on 8 February 1993. “Get out! He's shooting doctors!” someone yelled. Then a man's voice: “I don't want nurses, I want doctors! I want white coats.” The patient and I crouched on the floor. I was dressed in scrubs—white coats upset my paediatric patients—and I threw my ID badge under the examination couch.

Footsteps approached and the cubicle curtain was swept back to reveal a gun pointed at me by a tall, stocky man in combat gear with his other arm round the neck of a female file clerk. “You're a doctor, aren't you?” he shouted. I told him that I was a nurse. “Don't give me that. You're a doctor.” I waited for the bullet. Then, “You're British. I like British. I like ‘Are you being served.’”

Handcuffed

He asked us to get up. I told him the woman was a patient and that she needed to leave. He agreed and drew handcuffs from his pocket and shackled my right hand to the clerk's left, then led us on a search of the emergency room, looking for doctors to shoot.

Graphic “He's shooting doctors!”

My previous rotation had been at a neurorehabilitation centre, which had given me ample insight into the damage caused by …

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