Let's pause for a second to acknowledge that the "alarming statistics" they are citing are coming from an agency whose sole purpose is to advocate for more "healthcare security and safety," hardly objective or neutral data.Hospitals can be dangerous places. From 2012 to 2014, health care institutions reported a 40 percent increase in violent crime, with more than 10,000 incidents mostly directed at employees, according to a survey by the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety. Assaults linked to gangs, drug dealing and homelessness spill in from the streets, domestic disputes involving hospital personnel play out at work, and disruptive patients lash out. In recent years, dissatisfied relatives even shot two prominent surgeons in Baltimore and near Boston.
To protect their corridors, 52 percent of medical centers reported that their security personnel carried handguns and 47 percent said they used Tasers, according to a 2014 national survey, more than double estimates from studies just three years before. Institutions that prohibit them argue that such weapons — and security guards not adequately trained to work in medical settings — add a dangerous element in an already tense environment. They say many other steps can be taken to address problems, particularly with the mentally ill.
Many hospitals say that with proper safeguards — some restrict armed officers to high-risk areas like emergency rooms and parking areas — and supervision, weapons save lives and defuse threatening situations. The Cleveland Clinic, which has placed metal detectors in its emergency room, has its own fully armed police force and hires off-duty officers as well. The University of California medical centers at Irvine and San Diego and small community hospitals are among the more than 200 facilities that use stun guns produced by Taser International, which has courted hospitals as a lucrative new market.
A family with Haitian and Mexican roots who settled in McAllen, Tex., the Peans were shocked that Mr. Pean’s effort to get medical aid ended so badly. Though his father, Harold Pean, and a half-dozen other relatives are physicians, they said they had no idea that guns could be used against patients. After watching the nation roiled by the shootings of unarmed black men by police officers over the last year or so, the family now wonders whether race contributed to Alan’s near-fatal encounter.
“We never thought that would happen to us,” Dr. Pean said.