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Looking down the barrel

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 01 June 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:0306203
  1. Mark Lister, third year medical student1
  1. 1University of Leeds

Mark Lister talks to emergency doctors in London and Chicago about the implications gun shot wounds have on health professionals and health services

In the flash of a bullet, a gun wound can destroy vital organs, unleash pints of blood, produce serious systemic infection, and cause widespread bodily chaos. The reality of such images is increasing in the bitter shootings of youths that confront staff in emergency departments. In the United Kingdom, the phrase gun culture is used widely, more so since the fatal shootings of two girls in Birmingham who were caught in the crossfire of a gangland shoot out.

A public health emergency

Certain states in the United States consider the rise in gun culture a public health emergency, which is threatening to break emergency services. Consequently, doctors have had to rapidly evolve in the way they work to handle the demands of injuries that guns can cause. About 39 000 shootings present to emergency rooms throughout the United States every year.1

Cai Glushak, medical director of the emergency medical services, at the University of Chicago Hospital, Illinois, says Chicago …

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