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Taking note . . .

Observations about public affairs in the nationís capital
by the editor of The Common Denominator

A QUESTION OF LIFE OR DEATH: Prosecutors may find it difficult to convict Michael C. Hamlin and Percey Jordan Jr. on murder charges, given the questions being raised about the quality of emergency medical care that was administered to retired New York Times journalist David Rosenbaum after he was attacked during a street robbery on Jan. 6. Rosenbaum, 63, died two days after being beaten and robbed in the 3800 block of Gramercy Street NW, a crime with which the 23-year-old Hamlin and 42-year-old Jordan have been charged.

“Mr. Rosenbaum died either because he had an injury that could not be easily detected, or he died because an individual or several individuals were sloppy in the field or at the hospital,” D.C. City Councilman Phil Mendelson, D-At Large, chairman of the council’s committee with oversight of the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, said Jan. 20 during a live radio broadcast of “The Politics Program with Mark Plotkin” on WTOP.

It’s a question of fact that a jury would need to answer: Did Rosenbaum’s attackers inflict fatal injuries or did the lack of timely and appropriate medical care cause Rosenbaum’s death?

An autopsy report from the D.C. medical examiner’s office found that Rosenbaum died as a result of blunt force impact trauma to the head, torso and extremities. But conflicting reports indicate that first responders may have concluded that Rosenbaum, found lying on the sidewalk shortly before 9:30 p.m., was simply drunk, rather than injured. It took 23 minutes for an ambulance to arrive at the scene to transport the injured journalist to Howard University Hospital’s emergency room, where published reports say he waited an additional hour to receive medical care.

Mayor Anthony Williams has asked the independent D.C. inspector general to investigate what happened in response to the 911 call that sought assistance for Rosenbaum.

Sadly, the District’s political establishment remained deaf to ordinary citizens’ longstanding cries about deficiencies within the city’s emergency medical care system until a high-profile individual with congressional friends became a victim.

D.C. voters, especially, should pay close attention to whether the District’s leaders use this tragedy for the family and friends of David Rosenbaum as a catalyst to resolve a critical citywide problem or simply to pacify the concerns of residents in voter-rich Upper Northwest Washington.

REST IN PEACE: Marjorie H. Parker, prominent educator and community leader who was among the first trustees of the University of the District of Columbia and served as a presidential appointee to the D.C. City Council before home rule, died of heart disease Jan. 16 at her D.C. home. She was 89. ... Marcia Rosenthall, founding executive director of the downtown Washington's Golden Triangle Business Improvement District, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Jan. 15 at her Bethesda home. She was 39.

Copyright 2006 The Common Denominator