It Was Too Late To Save Woman After Emergency Dispatchers Mocked Her Call For Help

When you call 911, you expect the person on the line to have compassion, especially if you’re saying things like “I am going to die.” Twenty-two-year-old Naomi Musenga from eastern France was met with quite the opposite when she called into France’s emergency line, 112, in December 2017.

The young woman called into the emergency service requesting an ambulance to the hospital, stating quite plainly that she was “going to die.” The response she received seemed more like a prank phone call. “Yes, certainly, you will die one day, just like everyone does,” the dispatcher responded.

Musenga started the call with a weak cry for help and was having difficulty describing her condition, which prompted the dispatcher to threaten hanging up if she couldn’t describe her condition. “I have a lot of pain in my stomach,” Musenga explains, “It hurts all over.” In the call’s audio, which was released by local magazine Heb’di, the dispatcher is clearly heard insisting that Musenga try a non-emergency hotline. In France, it’s called the SOS medecins.

Finally giving up on trying to get emergency help, Musenga called the hotline. A doctor arrived at the ailing woman five hours later and, just as Musenga had tried to do, called for an ambulance. This time, it was dispatched. According to French newspaper Le Monde, while in intensive care, Musenga suffered a heart attack and died and was found to have had multiple organ failure. She leaves behind an 18-month-old girl.

Though it’s been five months since Musenga’s passing and verbal torment at the hands of the emergency dispatcher, her story didn’t gain traction until Heb’di published the recording of the call. Health Minister Agnes Buzyn responded to the incident on Twitter, writing: “I am profoundly outraged by the circumstances of Naomi Musenga’s passing in December.” She closed the tweet by promising the family that the matter would be investigated further until all information was gathered.

An investigation has been opened in response to the call and the operator responsible has been placed on temporary suspension. Possibly speaking in defense of the worker is Jean-Claude Matry, the president of the workers’ union for the emergency services. “The operators answer calls 12 consecutive hours a day. They undergo a lot of stress and it becomes hard to distinguish serious causes from boo-boos,” Matry explained, failing to understand what part of a dispatcher’s job is.

French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn spoke with BFM TV, a CNN affiliate, stating that she wants to determine what level of pressure the call center was under. “It will enable me to know if there was a dysfunction in the structure or if it was the case, unfortunately, of one individual who did not respect the procedure.”

In response to the incident, the internet reacted unfavorably, rightfully so. Beyond verbally chiding the dying woman, the French dispatcher failed to handle the call as her job entails, which, as the Musenga’s family lawyer, Mohamed Aachour, explains includes follow-up questions like “Are you alone? Are you able to dial the phone number?” There are those that are trying to take Musenga’s death and make it an issue of race, which hits a wall considering there is no indication of who the dispatcher was. 

On social media outlets, the hashtag #JusticePourNaomi is being used to organize a rally for Wednesday, May 16th.

H/T: Twitter, Newsweek, Heb’di, BFM TV