It’s Not About Philip Seymour Hoffman

It’s really not just about Philip Seymour Hoffman. It is about the over 38,000 people that die every year from the same condition. Drug addiction and alcoholism is a deadly disease. It takes countless lives. It destroys families and futures.

There has been a lot of talk lately about Philip Seymour Hoffman on social media. Unfortunately I’ve seen some pretty appalling posts by EMS providers.

Some say he deserved to die because he chose to inject drugs. Many use highly derogatory terms. I would like to counter with one sentence.

I’ve never seen a good caregiver who had contempt for patients.

Let’s keep in mind addiction is a disease. It’s a deadly and often terminal condition. Do we have contempt for cancer patients or diabetics? Then why would we show contempt for any other sick patient?

The only way we can is if we suffer under a delusion. That delusion is that people who drink too much or are addicted to drugs are bad people of weak moral character. That they have free will and made a conscious choice to die.

Actually they don’t. Once they start it is often nearly impossible for them to stop. This compulsion is hard for those not similarly afflicted to understand. It is however a hallmark of the disease.

Mr. Hoffman was for many years in recovery. He was an amazing and talented actor. Unfortunately he fell off the wagon and in only a few short years died. It is always sad when somebody dies long before his or her time.

Those who cannot accept that addiction is a disease deny accepted medical science. In doing so they also deny that treatment can be effective. Many hundreds of thousands of patients have turned their lives around. By accepting help they can arrest the disease and hold it at bay. Once they do many are some of the brightest and most talented among us.

No, they will never cure it. They cannot go back to using again without risking destruction and death. Once they do in only a short time they are usually right back where they started. That is what happened to Philip Seymour Hoffman

I just want my EMS brothers and sisters to understand that when you are dealing with a drunk in his cups you are dealing with a very sick person. It’s not cool to make fun of sick people.

Just like it’s not cool to load a narcotic OD up with Narcan and watch them suffer. Give them just enough to restore good respiration and stop. It’s not necessary to put them into withdrawals so you can show off.

EMS is no place for cruelty. It’s no place for contempt. It’s no place for those who deny science. If you can’t deliver every patient compassionate medical care maybe you should find a different line of work. You just might not have the head or heart for this one.


About Dan White

I'm a retired Paramedic and EMS Instructor with 35 years EMS and emergency medical product experience. I love canoes, cars and EMS. I have written a lot about EMS Technology on the Paramedic Blog, the Insights on Innovation column for, on and I can be reached directly at 573-240-0002.
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3 Responses to It’s Not About Philip Seymour Hoffman

  1. Alex says:

    Wow, Dan. Great write-up. Admittedly, I haven’t heard or seen EMS providers bashing Hoffman and saying he essentially deserved what he got. But if that’s the case, it’s beyond unprofessional. In fact, it would be outright disturbing to have such disdain for your patients.

    And good point about comparing it to other medical problems. A problem is a problem is a problem. If it’s an issue that is causing destruction internally with the patient, then it needs to be handled with the same care and concern as any other condition a patient had.

  2. apratt says:

    Really makes the point well about something that is often treated as a moral issue instead of a physical allergy. Might want to proof for addition/addiction.

  3. dwightjones says:

    “Addition is a disease.” True, but not invariably fatal, like long division.

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