Monday, March 21, 2005


We saw this weekend how fast the one-party government in Washington can move to try to keep a woman with no higher-order brain functions alive for several more decades. Alas, the government's concern for the lives of healthy, fully functional soldiers in Iraq has been a bit less robust -- it's still going to take several more months (actually, it's taken two and a half years) to get each of the troops a sophisticated, high-tech piece of lifesaving equipment, the lack of which has led a number of them to bleed to death.

A tourniquet.

Here's the original story from the Baltimore Sun (link; if that doesn't work, try this):

Since at least a month before the war in Iraq began, medical experts in the Army and other services have called on the Pentagon to equip every American soldier in the war zone with a modern tourniquet. The simple first-aid tool - a more sophisticated version of the cloth-and-stick device used by armies for centuries - could all but eliminate deaths caused by blood loss from extremity wounds, the most common cause of preventable death in combat, they argue. The cost would not likely exceed $2 million, or about two-thousandths of a percent of the $82 billion proposed for the war this year.

Yet many of the nation's soldiers - tens of thousands, some doctors and Army medical officials estimate - continue to enter battle without tourniquets. And some bleed to death from battlefield injuries that would not be life-threatening if a proper tourniquet were available, according to more than a dozen military doctors and medics who spoke to The Sun on the condition they not be identified....

Even though the Army has approved a new soldier first-aid kit that would include a tourniquet and manufacturers say they are ready to produce as many as 100,000 tourniquets a month, the Pentagon has not placed an order....

Many of the Army's Reserve and National Guard units, maintenance and supply soldiers, and infantry soldiers ... don't have modern tourniquets. The Army has never added any type of tourniquet to its standard equipment list for soldiers, and the Pentagon has never dedicated money to buy them. Squads of 10 or more soldiers sometimes go into battle without a single tourniquet among them, The Sun has found. Many soldiers don't even carry the $2.05 cravat bandage, which the military has used as an improvised tourniquet for hundreds of years....

And this isn't a trivial issue:

One photograph circulating among Army doctors shows an unidentified soldier with a tourniquet on his leg fashioned from a bungee cord. According to a doctor who showed the picture to The Sun, the improvised tourniquet failed, and the soldier bled to death....

A Sun update late last week (try this to get it) informs us that the situation is being remedied. That means instantly, right?

"We anticipate theaterwide distribution beginning in mid-April, with completion in three or four months, by July or August," said Cynthia Vaughan, a spokeswoman for the Army surgeon general.

So what went wrong?

One obstacle was that the military wanted first to develop new training manuals and a pouch for carrying the tourniquet, a process expected to take months.

Let's see: Military doctors have been talking about this since 2003, there've been 1500+ deaths and a lot more injuries, and the the training manuals and pouch are still in the planning stages?

I guess they weren't planning to finish this process until the third or fourth Bush invasion of a Middle Eastern country.

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