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Paramedic gets suspended sentence for negligence causing death

The Zemgale District Court has sentenced paramedic Gints Vaits to one year suspended sentence and a four-year ban from medical practice for leaving a young woman unconscious and failing to provide assistance, Latvian Television reported on April 16.

Vaits admitted his guilt in court only in part, but in a conversation with LTV he denied it. 

Alīna Ansone was at her cousin's wedding. The party went on. She may have fallen. The others found her unconscious. An emergency crew came from Kauguri. Assistant doctor Vaits advised that Alīna be put to bed, and she wasn't taken to hospital.

Alīna was taken to the Stradinš hospital the next day by another team. She could no longer be saved as she was braindead.

Gints Vaits was fired immediately.

"This is unprecedented in the history of the service. He ended up on my desk the morning after the event and the decision was immediate. It was the last call in his lifetime. And it was not a medical mistake but a negligent attitude and it needs to be judged in court!" said Liene Cipule, director of the Emergency Medical Service (NMPD).

Alīna's mum testified in court how helpful her daughter was. But when she needed help, it wasn't given.

"What Alīna's mum said in court is very much in mind. That Alīna regularly donated blood and became a donor after death. Alīna was someone who helped others. It was very, very important to her. But when she needed it, she didn't get it," said the victim's legal spokeswoman, Sandra Heidingere.

Gints Vaits admitted only part of his guilt in court. 

"He had a version that after the paramedics were already leaving, relatives of the victim carried her to bed and they dropped her on the ground themselves. It is not a doctor's worthy answer according to the court," Zemgale District Court Judge Ligita Sprigule said.

Despite Vaits's handling of the trial, the prosecutor asked for a suspended sentence.

"Did not provide assistance, [the victim] was not taken to a hospital. The consequences are death. Given both the case law and personality, the nature of the offense, this suspended sentence was sought," said Daiga Vāciete, prosecutor of the West Zemgale prosecutor's office.

While the section of the Article in question also provides for actual imprisonment, the court ruled that Vaits should be sentenced to a year's suspended prison sentence. 

"The court had the confidence that he would not commit any criminal offenses in the future, so the court ruled it possible to impose a suspended custodial sentence," Sprigule said, noting that Vaits had never been punished before.

LTV spoke to Gints on the phone.

LTV: Did you admit your guilt?

Vaits: No.

LTV: According to the court, you did partly, therefore there is such punishment.

Vaits: I didn't admit my guilt because I don't know what happened there. Because of the injury. Because there were no signs of trauma when I was there.

LTV: But Alīna was already unconscious. If she had been taken to hospital, she could have been saved.

Vaits: Were you there?

The judgment may be appealed within ten days. The prosecutor won't because the court imposed the sentence she requested. But for Alīna's mum, every hearing is a huge ordeal.

"Justice has not been achieved and there is no peace that such cases will not happen again... but if Alina's mom makes the decision not to appeal, it will only involve not having to go through that pain over and over again," Heidinger said.

Alīna Ansone was just 31. She had allowed her organs to be used after death. Five transplants followed, with Alīna's heart now beating in another person too.

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