Douglas County ambulances are still scheduled to be equipped with an experimental artificial blood product despite a decision by Johnson County leaders to pull out of the research project.
Mark Bradford, acting chief of Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical, said he supports the Kansas University Medical Center research project.
"I think it has good potential," Bradford said of PolyHeme, an artificial blood product that allows paramedics to give transfusions to trauma patients. "And in general we like participating in practices that can keep us state of the art."
The study includes equipping ambulances in Douglas, Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties with the product. Originally, Johnson County also was included in the study. But Johnson County commissioners recently rejected the study, in part, because they believed it created ethical issues. Commissioners expressed concern that the study would be using patients who could not give their consent to participate.
Dr. Scott Robinson - an emergency room doctor at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and the medical director for Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical - said he did not believe patients had any reasons to be concerned. He said the study's purpose was not to determine whether the product produced dangerous side effects. He said the study was geared to determine whether it was feasible for paramedics to use the product in the field.
"They (patients) should feel that at worst they are getting something that will do them no harm and at best could help save their lives," Robinson said.
About 20 other communities across the country are using the product in similar research projects.
Unlike in Johnson County, city and county commissioners in Douglas County were not asked to decide whether the ambulance service should participate in the study.
"It really shouldn't be a political issue," Robinson said. "It is too bad it became one in Johnson County. It really is a medical issue."
Researchers believe the product has great potential in preventing trauma patients from going into shock. Currently, paramedics don't give blood transfusions because it is too difficult to store the many different blood types in an ambulance.
Dennis McCulloch, a spokesman for the Medical Center, said he expects Douglas County paramedics to begin using the artificial blood product by mid-November.