The doctor who pronounced George Floyd dead testified on Monday that he believes oxygen deficiency—not a heart attack or drug overdose—caused Floyd’s fatal cardiac arrest.
Hennepin County Medical Center Dr. Bradford Langenfeld told prosecutors that no reports mentioned Floyd presenting symptoms of a heart attack, including chest pain. The doctor also said there was no indication Floyd was experiencing an overdose, and he had not received any reports about “extremely agitated” behavior.
Langenfeld said he believes oxygen deficiency or “asphyxia” killed Floyd.
According to the doctor, Floyd’s chance of survival dropped 10 to 15 percent every minute he did not receive CPR while in cardiac arrest. This aspect of his testimony would seem to have implications for Minneapolis police officers’ failure to deploy life-saving measures while they waited for paramedics to arrive at the scene.
WATCH: Dr. Bradford Langenfeld testifies in the #DerekChauvinTrial, says he believes George Floyd’s cardiac arrest was likely caused by oxygen deficiency, or oxygen asphyxia. “At the time, based on the information I had, it was one more likely than the other possibilities.” pic.twitter.com/TRdUZXQmK3
— WCCO – CBS Minnesota (@WCCO) April 5, 2021
Hennepin County’s official autopsy report stated that Floyd’s blood had a fentanyl concentration of 11 nanograms per milliliter. While the medical examiner described the concentration as high and potentially fatal, they stressed that it does not mean Floyd died of an overdose.
“If he were found dead at home alone and no other apparent causes, this could be acceptable to call an O.D. [overdose],” the medical examiner wrote in a note to prosecutors, according to KARE.
“Deaths have been certified with levels of 3 [nanograms per milliliter]. But I am not saying this [fentanyl] killed him.”
Hennepin County’s autopsy report stated that Floyd died as a result of “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” However, a medical examiner hired by Floyd’s family concluded that “asphyxiation from sustained pressure” killed Floyd.
Both the county’s and the independent report mentioned drugs in Floyd’s system. However, the two reports listed his cause of death as a homicide.
Langenfeld said paramedics who transported Floyd to the hospital never mentioned the possibility of an overdose. During cross-examination, the doctor explained that even if Floyd had overdosed, naloxone, known commonly as Narcan, would provide no remedy as Floyd’s heart had already stopped.
Langenfeld, who received his physician and surgeon license 18 days before treating Floyd, said he rejected the possibility that excited delirium killed Floyd. The doctor testified that there was no evidence Floyd exhibited symptoms common with excited delirium, such as sweating or agitation.
A 2011 study in the West Journal of Emergency Medicine described excited delirium as a syndrome “characterized by agitation, aggression, acute distress, and sudden death, often in the pre-hospital care setting.” It is typically associated with drug use that affects dopamine reception and hyperthermia.
While law enforcement has used excited delirium to explain deaths that occur during an arrest, the Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association says there is no “universally recognized definition” of the term, which has a “wide differential diagnosis.” However, the organization says law enforcement’s use of restraints has an “exceedingly high rate” of death or injury among people experiencing the syndrome.
Dr. Bradford Langenfeld is the doctor who pronounced George Floyd dead. He said no one mentioned any possibility of #GeorgeFloyd suffering a drug overdose or heart attack. He also got no information that anyone had done any CPR on Mr. Floyd.#DerekChauvinTrial pic.twitter.com/dPxegce2fm
— Emerald Morrow WTSP (@EmeraldWTSP) April 5, 2021
On May 25, Minneapolis police officers were filmed arresting Floyd, 44, on suspicion that he used a counterfeit bill at the Cup Foods supermarket. After police pulled Floyd out of his car and handcuffed him, Derek Chauvin was filmed forcing his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
Floyd was heard gasping for air and repeatedly saying he could not breathe before he lost consciousness and died.
The defense has argued that a “speedball”—an opioid and a stimulant combination— along with hypertension led to Floyd dying of cardiac arrhythmia. However, the prosecution said video evidence and expert testimony disproves Floyd was dying from a drug overdose, and that Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes killed him.
Chauvin is charged with third-degree murder, second-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in connection with Floyd’s death. In addition to Chauvin, three other ex-officers, Thomas Lane, 37, J. Alexander Kueng, 26, and Tou Thao, 34 are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in connection with Floyd’s death.
Chauvin is being tried separately from the other three former officers, who will stand trial together. Their trial is scheduled to begin this summer.
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[Featured image: Bradford Langenfeld/Court TV via AP, Pool]