Recently an experienced emergency medical technician (EMT) wrote and said that he believed the American public to be uninformed about first aid and emergency care. After reading his letter, I now believe that merely having EMT training is no assurance of having correct information either.

This EMT said that a suspected heart attack victim with chest pain should be transported only by an ambulance and that using a personal vehicle for transporting a suspected heart attack victim is totally inappropriate and that under no circumstance should such a person be transported in a personal vehicle.My reply is that while the first option should always be to use an ambulance for suspected heart attack victims, there are circumstances where personal vehicle use is better than waiting for an ambulance. Examples include victims on farms, ranches, vacation cabins and the wilderness. The majority of injuries and sudden illnesses requiring medical attention do not necessitate an ambulance ride even in urban settings.

The EMT said that syrup of ipecac should be available and used to induce vomiting in the event of ingested poisoning. Ipecac is easily acquired without a prescription at most pharmacies, and a few years ago, well-meaning organizations even gave bottles of it out free to parents and grandparents.

However, the use of ipecac has come under extreme scrutiny in the past few years. Its earlier wide use has been shown to be inappropriate, especially with today's available alternatives. Most emergency room physicians severely limit its use. In fact one toxicologist in Phoenix hasn't used it in more than a decade. People helping a poisoned victim should always call the poison control center for advice about procedures.

The EMT said that with the exception of wrist and hand fractures, those suffering fractures should be transported by ambulance.

Even those without medical training can probably recall an event where a person with a fracture was taken in a car to the emergency room and not by an ambulance. Probably only fractures of the skull, spine, pelvis, femur, open fractures and those with severe deformity require ambulance transportation. With the exception of the femur, extremity (leg and arm) fractures usually don't require ambulance transportation unless they are severely deformed or have an open wound.

My disagreement with this emergency medical technician shouldn't cast a shadow over all EMTs. Most EMTs would disagree with their cohorts' opinions stated in this article. It does reflect that all professionals, not just in medicine, will have differences of opinion. It underlines the fact that within any profession you will find professionals along a continuum - some very knowledgeable while other surprising incompetent.

It behooves everyone to pull out a good first aid manual and study it. Then, should the occasion happen where you see or are receiving inappropriate care, speak up and question what may be taking place.