Radiologist: “What I saw treating the victims from Parkland should change the debate on guns”


“They weren’t the first victims of a mass shooting the Florida radiologist had seen—but their wounds were radically different,” observed radiologist Heather Sher in The Atlantic.

“As I opened the CT scan last week to read the next case, I was baffled. The history simply read ‘gunshot wound.’ I have been a radiologist in one of the busiest trauma centers in the nation for 13 years, and have diagnosed thousands of handgun injuries to the brain, lung, liver, spleen, bowel, and other vital organs. I thought that I knew all that I needed to know about gunshot wounds, but the specific pattern of injury on my computer screen was one that I had seen only once before.

“In a typical handgun injury that I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ like the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, grey bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments.

“I was looking at a CT scan of one of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, with extensive bleeding. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage?

“The reaction in the emergency room was the same. One of the trauma surgeons opened a young victim in the operating room, and found only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet from an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle which delivers a devastatingly lethal, high-velocity bullet to the victim. There was nothing left to repair, and utterly, devastatingly, nothing that could be done to fix the problem. The injury was fatal.

“With an AR-15, the shooter does not have to be particularly accurate. The victim does not have to be unlucky. If a victim takes a direct hit to the liver from an AR-15, the damage is far graver than that of a simple handgun shot injury. Handgun injuries to the liver are generally survivable unless the bullet hits the main blood supply to the liver. An AR-15 bullet wound to the middle of the liver would cause so much bleeding that the patient would likely never make it to a trauma center to receive our care.

“One of my ER colleagues was waiting nervously for his own children outside the school. While the shooting was still in progress, the first responders were gathering up victims whenever they could and carrying them outside the building. Even as a physician trained in trauma situations, though, there was nothing he could do at the scene to help to save the victims who had been shot with an AR-15. Most of them died on the spot, with no fighting chance at life.

“As a doctor, I feel I have a duty to inform the public of what I have learned as I have observed these wounds and cared for these patients. It’s clear to me that AR-15 or other high-velocity weapons, especially when outfitted with a high-capacity magazine, have no place in a civilian’s gun cabinet.

“I have friends who own AR-15 rifles; they enjoy shooting them at target practice for sport, and fervently defend their right to own them. But I cannot accept that their right to enjoy their hobby supersedes my right to send my own children to school, to a movie theater, or to a concert and to know that they are safe. Can the answer really be to subject our school children to active shooter drills—to learn to hide under desks, turn off the lights, lock the door and be silent—instead of addressing the root cause of the problem and passing legislation to take AR-15-style weapons out of the hands of civilians?

“But in the aftermath of this shooting, in the face of specific questioning, our government leaders did not want to discuss gun control even when asked directly about these issues. Florida Senator Marco Rubio warned not to ‘jump to conclusions that there’s some law we could have passed that could have prevented it.’ A reporter asked House Speaker Paul Ryan about gun control, and he replied, ‘As you know, mental health is often a big problem underlying these tragedies.’ And on Tuesday, Florida’s state legislature voted against considering a ban on AR-15-type rifles, 71 to 36.

“As a radiologist, I have now seen high velocity AR-15 gunshot wounds firsthand, an experience that most radiologists in our country will never have. I pray that these are the last such wounds I have to see, and that AR-15-style weapons and high-capacity magazines are banned for use by civilians in the United States, once and for all.”

The rest of the article is here.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

19 thoughts on “Radiologist: “What I saw treating the victims from Parkland should change the debate on guns””

  1. It feels like a disturbance in the force. The narrative has changed. One sign of it is the ferocity with which the Stoneman Douglas students have frightened and are therefore being vilified by the NRA whores in Congress and by the rightwing media.

    But the attack on the students isn’t working. They are dominating the narrative.

    This may be wishful thinking, but it feels like the tipping point we’ve been waiting for.

    Any of the recent mass shootings — Columbine, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas — should have been enough.

    What’s different this time? The students are standing up and they won’t be forced to sit down and be silent. They’re rapidly becoming a potent political force. We should stand up with them, march with them, support them in their “March for Our Lives:”

    March for Our Lives
    March 24 — Washington, D.C. and in your community

    1. March for our lives is also a nationwide call for students to protest in their towns. I sent a letter to the editor to encourage local students and their parents to think about doing one in GV, maybe NU to the downtown. Haven’t heard a thing back from the Union. They always call to confirm that I wrote what was sent in, and that was several days ago.

      1. Yes, that’s why their banner includes the phrase, ” … and in your community.”

        Thanks, Steve, for your effort to get The Union out in front on this. I hope something happens here too.

        I heard Cameron Kasky being interviewed yesterday, and he said that in Washington they plan to destroy some AR-15s on the Capitol steps. He invited people to bring them (either bring them to destroy or bring them disassembled, to destroy).

  2. Companies that are backing off on the NRA are just doing it to preserve their own sorry asses because they are afraid of losing business which is the same reason they took on NRA in the first place.. a sales gimmick. Rats deserting a ship they helped to build. The change that needs to come is when donors and voters reject pathetic Republicans like Marco Rubio and the 276 other legislators who take NRA money and consistently vote against gun control. Until that happens, it’s all just the same old smoke and mirrors. And making that happen will be difficult thanks to the absurdity that corporations are people.

  3. Students are organizing several nationwide events. Kudos to those students. Here is another one.
    On twitter @schoolwalkoutUS
    On Friday, April 20th we want students to attend school and then promptly WALK-OUT at 10:00 am. Sit outside your schools and peacefully protest. Make some noise. Voice your thoughts. “We are students, we are victims, we are change.”

  4. Seen on Twitter: “Enterprise, Alamo, and National car rental have all dropped their partnership programs with the NRA.”

    If true, it was not because 17 people died at Parkland but because student leaders have ignited a national outrage and the NRA’s only response is more bs coupled with 1950s style socialist scare nonsense.

  5. Here’s a piece of garbage information I heard yesterday on the Thom Hartmann radio program and that I passed along uncritically (in a comment above):

    “I heard Cameron Kasky being interviewed yesterday, and he said that in Washington they plan to destroy some AR-15s on the Capitol steps. He invited people to bring them (either bring them to destroy or bring them disassembled, to destroy).”

    I apologize for succumbing to what I hope was a temporary lapse of judgement and good sense, especially on a subject of such desperate importance.

    Apparently Thom Hartmann was “punked” by someone impersonating Cameron Kasky.

    Hartmann has apologized to his listeners as well. I think, in his zeal to support the high-schoolers’ movement, he willingly suspended his inclination to question that outrageous idea being heard by millions of people.

    I have no such excuse, which actually isn’t a very good one, even at that.

    1. While Hartmann has on occasion had some really good episodes, he was also a commentator and shill for Russia Today for a long time.

      1. I’ve listened to Hartmann most days for nearly all of the years that he has been broadcasting (since 2003), and I’ve never heard him say anything that sounded like shilling for Russia Today, even during the years when that was one of his broadcast outlets. He always retained editorial control. Maybe you can give some examples to illustrate how he is shilling. I’m glad to be tutored in that, but I just haven’t heard it.

        Since he’s a self-described Democratic-Socialist, it was fairly natural that he dedicated the first hour of his three-hour program every Friday (for over ten years) to a “Brunch With Bernie” [Sanders], during which callers could dial up and ask Sanders questions. Sanders was never afraid to admit it when he was unable to answer a question.

        I disagree with Hartmann fairly often, and sometimes tire of his agressive, pointless arguments with his conservative guests. He seems to enjoy the jousting and claims he is offering a model for the “water cooler wars.” I don’t find agressive interruptions a model at all. I usually skip over those.

        But beyond all that, he is a remarkably well-informed autodidact, from whom I’ve learned a great deal.

        The punking episode is not at all typical. According to him, the Washington Post was also snookered by the same impostor. It’s to his credit that he owned up to it and apologiized for it the next day.

    1. He’s not dumb. He knew RT was a direct wholly owned and controlled outlet for the Kremlin. He lent them credibility and they used him for exactly that. It was a symbiotic relationship. Not unlike Kucinich and Fox News.

      1. Good point.

        I’d still like some examples of how slanted his content to the point that you could justifiably use the word, “shill.”

        If you’re right, I’m sure youll have no trouble finding some examples.

      2. After spending some time looking at this issue about Hartmann on RT, I see that many many people agree with you, Bruce, and I’m coming around to see the sense in your point-of-view. As someone who appreciates Hartmann’s politics, I’ve been reluctant to damn him categorically, particularly since I’ve never had the impression that he cared to speak of Putin one way or the other … which could be the point. Has he muted criticism of Russia and Putin? I have no idea. One of my problems is with my understanding of the word, “shill,” which I take to be an active promoter, not a passive tolerator.

        Whether or not he’s a shill, I agree he’s been damn foolish to locate himself in RT.

        The best you can say for him is that he’s not the only American progressive who’s done that. He keeps company with Ed Schultz, Larry King and other progressives. The following article is probably the best face you can put on this, and it’s still not good:

        Must Progressive Voices Abandon US-Owned Media?

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