Medic?? MEDIC!!!!

In a combay situation, is there a pecking order of injuries that medics follow? Who gets treated first; A guy with a neck wound that could prove fatal. or a guy with a leg wound who’ll probably make it back to base on his own steam if patched up a bit? Morally, of course, its the guy with the possibly fatal injury, sure; if this was a car crash or something. But on the battlefield (Battlefield? Its still a battlefield, right?) wouldnt it make more sense to keep as many people moving as possible, and not get held up with one serious case? Anyone?

Of course, I did mean Combat… heh…

I’m not a medic, or a doctor, and I’ve never been anywhere near a combat zone. I’m sure someone who is/was one or more of those will be along. However: From what people who have been one or more of those have told me, if you can’t help everybody, you ignore the ones that will most likely never make it and the ones who will probably live regardless, and treat the ones for whom your help means the difference between life and death.

Remember the TV show MASH?

Doctors and medics use the concept of triage. All patients are quickly assessed and put into three groups. One group is those whose injuries are too severe and will die, they get no treatment. The next group are those who will die without treatment, but prompt treatment can save their life, they get put at the head of the line. The last group will need treatment, but will not die without treatment. Those get put at the end of the line.

Back during the first Gulf War, I read that seriously wounded soldiers get treated first, but only if there is a reasonable chance that they might survive. If someone has an injury that will probably prove fatal no matter what (massive head trauma, for example), then that poor dude gets sent to the end of the line, so to speak. Basically, the doctors try to save as many lives as possible, but if they think you’re too far gone they won’t waste their time on you.

MT-137 Triage System

Black @ Dead or Imminent
Red @ Urgent, Rapid Care Needed
Gold @ Less Urgent Care Needed
Green @ Ambulatory, Minor Care

Battlefield medics use the same type of triage that any other emergency-response personnel make. You treat the most serious, life-threatening injuries first. However, for a person who has virtually no chance of survival, such as someone with third-degree burns over 99% of their body, you give them morphine, and move on to the next injury.

Ok, triage. On another point, at what point do they stop trying to retrieve wounded? I’m talking about a Full Metal Jacket situation, where a sniper is kneecdapping anyone who tries to rescue a wounded soldier. At what point will a C.O. say, “fuck it, this isnt worth it?” ; All this is coming from watching Band of Brothers tonight; a guy got shot, then the medic who went to treat him got shot… I wondered at what point will they stop sending medics out… probably secure the area first, right?

The unit has to maintain mission capability. If anything gets in the way of mission capability, it has to be dealt with. It sounds cold, but the reason the people are there is the mission. The mission and underlying priorities give context to the risks and losses suffered by prersonnel.

As for this point, generally, no, it would not make more sense to get a bunch of soldiers with relatively minor injuries back on their feet, while allowing those with treatable serious injuries to die. For one thing, the whole idea is just morally repugnant. Secondly, pragmatically speaking, it would be a waste of valuable, trained soldiers.

Even in a hot battlefield situation, a medic would still likely try to treat the most serious treatable cases first. In such a situation, they would likely not spend that much time on any one case. Stabilize as fast as possible, and move on.

That being said, it depends on what the situation is. If you’re on the front lines and your position is being overrun by the enemy, something like what you’re describing might indeed happen. If you’re behind the lines in a field hospital, it likely wouldn’t.

Significant of nothing, I’ve shouted “Medic!” for real only once in my life; after a guy opened up a pressure cooker without venting it first, getting a faceful of steam and giving me a good splash in the process.

I saw him a few years later. He looked okay.

Me and my buddies shout it at the slightest thing, particularly if said mishap occurs during a state of intoxication. One time, a friend took a drunken tumble off a wall, landing in a heap in a thistle cluster. What was I supposed to shout? He saw the funny side, and began screaming it himself…

Wikipedia refers to this as ‘reverse triage’, which is a new term to me. I have read a description of this (prioritising treatment of those who can get back into the front line fastest) but I can’t remember what it related to. I have no doubt it used to be relatively common practice in the old days when soldiers were more unskilled labour than they are nowadays, moral repugnance not normally being that much of an issue in warfare.

I can foresee situations where the combat/logistical situation is so iffy a serious neck wound would rate you an immediate ‘black’ tag and the medic would move on to someone he might be able to save, but that would be pretty unusual (e.g. special forces behind enemy lines). It’s totally dependent on how much ‘care’ can be brought to bear on a casualty. If immediate helicopter lift to a fully-equipped modern hospital is available (e.g. Baghdad suburbs) then it’s practical to save people you would just give up on if you had to nothing more sophisticated than a first aid kit within 12 hours march (e.g. at the bottom of some godforsaken ravine in the mountains of Afghanistan).

That’s a good point. The group a wounded soldier falls into depends not just on the severity of the injury but on the resources available to treat it. A fully equipped trauma hospital isn’t going to have as many blacks as a frontline medic with a syringe of morphine, an ace bandage and a penknife.

Here’s a little Wikipedia on military medical care:

As you can see, there’s a little more to it than just screaming “MEDIC!!”, jacking a dude up with morphine, and sending him back into the fight.