Naomi Musenga, a young black French mother (pictured above), died last December after calling emergency services while suffering severe pains and was mocked by the emergency operator, according to a BBC report.
“I’m going to die,” the 22-year-old told Strasbourg’s ambulance services.
“You will die, certainly, one day,” the phone operator replies, “like everyone else.”
And she eventually did die—hours later.
Now with the release of the phone recording, there has been an outcry over why the emergency call by Musenga was not only ignored but also treated callously. French authorities have started an investigation into the matter.
In the three-minute audio, Musenga can be heard asking for help while also struggling to describe her pain. At one point, the annoyed operator responded, “If you don’t tell me what’s going on, I’ll hang up!”
Musenga: “I’m gonna die. Please, help me, ma’am.”
Operator: “I can’t help you, I don’t [know what’s wrong with you].”
Musenga: “I have a lot of pain, I have very bad pain.”
The operator then tells her to call her local doctor, at one point even providing a number to SOS Médecins, France’s medical emergency service that sends doctors directly to a house. According to the BBC, the recording also has an exchange between the operator and another staff member making fun of Musenga.
When the doctor from SOS Médecins did come, he immediately sent Musenga to the hospital five hours after her initial call. She died after suffering two heart attacks at the hospital, according to CNN.
Local French media says that she died of “multiple organ failures due to a hemorrhagic shock.”
“There were no questions like: ‘Are you alone? Are you able to dial the phone number?’ ‘How long have you been hurt?’ Or ‘Are you in pain?” Mohamed Aachour, the Musenga family lawyer, told reporters in a press conference. “All that she has had as treatment is indifference or cynicism.”
Musenga’s story only caught national attention after her family was able to obtain a recording of the phone call and posted it on a local news site. And as the social media outcry of #justicepournaomi (Justice for Naomi) grows, the operator involved had been suspended.
Health Minister Agnès Buzyn said on Twitter she was “deeply outraged” by the case: “I would like to assure her family of my full support… I promise her family will get all the information”.