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Colorado bill would limit paramedic’s use of ketamine, other chemical restraints

It comes after the death of Elijah McClain in 2019
Posted at 4:58 PM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2023-09-19 19:41:13-04

DENVER – Colorado lawmakers are considering legislation that would severely limit the use of ketamine and other chemical restraints following the 2019 death of Elijah McClain in Aurora.

HB21-1251 was introduced in the House on Tuesday.

“People are losing their lives and becoming paralyzed behind the improper use of these very harmful drugs. It must end,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, one of the sponsors of the bill. “We don’t need to see any more Elijah McClains happen in Colorado.”

Paramedics injected McClain with ketamine after incorrectly estimating his weight. Aurora Fire Rescue’s EMS patient care report shows medics gave him 500 milligrams of the drug; a dose recommended for a 200-pound person. McClain weighed 143 pounds.

McClain would then go into cardiac arrest before dying in the hospital a few days later.

The Adams County coroner found McClain’s death was undetermined but couldn’t rule out a reaction to the drug.

Herod said the bill will, “severely limit the use of ketamine and other chemical restraints in law enforcement settings.”

The legislation makes clear that ketamine and other chemical restraints are only allowed in emergency situations when medics, “can monitor the vital signs of the individual and weigh the individual to ensure accurate dosage.”

“We can stop that by making sure folks are on these weighted beds, making sure an accurate weight is taken,” Herod said.

The bill also “prohibits peace officers from using … or influencing the use of a chemical restraint.”

This is a scene Denver7 Investigates saw play out when it uncovered an Aurora officer urging paramedics to give drugs to a suspect to calm him down in May 2019.

“Let’s give him some juice to go to sleep,” the officer is heard saying on the body camera footage.

“This is not a video game,” Herod said. “It’s being used irresponsibly and it’s time to stop and hold people accountable when they use it.”

Denver7 reached out to the medical community about the bill but had not heard back as of Wednesday evening.

In previous statements, Colorado emergency department doctors have defended ketamine and said limits on its use are not the solution.

HB21-1251 now moves to the House Judiciary Committee.