Though senior and medical alert systems such as LifeAid are God-sends for the elderly and others with medical conditions wishing to live independently, there are also some risks that one wouldn’t otherwise consider. A case in point, is a tragic incident that occurred on November 19, 2011 in White Plains, NY. Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. a heart patient living alone with a LifeAid medical alert system accidentally triggered the system alarm via the pendant that he wore around his neck while sleeping. Though false alarms with medical alert systems are not uncommon events, what unfortunately must be pointed out here is that Mr. Chamberlain was an African American male living in a public housing project.
If we pause to consider the ramifications of Mr. Chamberlain’s circumstances based on the troubled history of encounters between African Americans and law enforcement, then we can possibly share the very same apprehension that Mr. Chamberlain experienced when the policed knocked on his apartment door in the middle of the night after being called by the LifeAid monitoring center.
The details of what transpired next are truly both infuriating as well as heartbreaking. Suffice it to say, that when the police left, Mr. Chamberlain lay dead on the floor of his apartment and the police officers involved were exonerated of any wrong doing in his death, which unfortunately seems to be the norm for many of these types of encounters. You can read the full story of what happened on Workers World.
So what should we make of this horrible and unfortunate incident involving a medical alert system?
Granted, the LifeAid system was directly responsible for having the police summoned to Mr. Chamberlain’s apartment, albeit in response to a false alarm, but it’s quite a stretch to blame it for his death. In a rational world (not even an ideal one), we would expect the police officers to be understanding and bid the occupant a good night after making sure that he was OK. However, the exact opposite occurred in Mr. Chamberlain’s case. Is it reasonable to assume that this is what would have probably occurred had Mr. Chamberlain been a white male? It’s conjecture to assume that things turned out differently because of his race and where he lived, but it’s all we have to go on in this circumstance.
There is no clear or easy answer as to if someone in the same circumstances would be better off without a medical alert system. After all, it was directly responsible for precipitating the conditions that led to Mr. Chamberlain’s death. What remains is the outrageous way that people of color are to this day still disgustingly treated by law enforcement in the United States of America. I think Mr. Chamberlain might have been better served by a medical alert system without 24 hr monitoring, but instead utilized one that was programmed to call a neighbor or family member who could have been in a much better position to determine that it was merely a false alarm and that all was well.