Woman Dies After Emergency Responders Mocked Her During 911 Call

An ambulance and a firefighter truck drive in front of the emergency service of the Nantes CHU Hospital on March 16, 2017 in Nantes, western France. A French woman has died hours after being told to seek help elsewhere, when she called the country's emergency services. Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images

The death of a young mother has become a public scandal in France, after it emerged she had called for an ambulance only to be mocked and told to call another service.

Naomi Musenga, a 22-year-old resident of eastern France, died with multiple organ failures, hours after she called emergency services to her home in Strasbourg. The incident took place in December but triggered a nationwide outcry when local magazine Heb'di published a recording of her call in which an audibly distressed Musenga pleads for help, while an annoyed dispatcher taunts her in front of a colleague, threatens to hang up and refuses to send an ambulance.

"Help me," Musenga is heard saying weakly as she struggles to describe her condition, according to a transcript by France 3. "If you don't tell me what is happening I am going to hang up," the evidently irate dispatcher responds, before trying to refer Musenga to another service.

"I am going to die," Musenga is heard insisting. "Yes, certainly, you will die one day, just like everyone does," the dispatcher adds, before insisting that the woman should call SOS médecins—a helpline which sends doctors to people's homes for a check-up.

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In France, locals can dial 15 for the ambulance service or 18 for the fire department in life-threatening health emergencies, as well 112—a European equivalent of 911. The SOS médecins is a service for non-life threatening cases or health conditions that do not require a patient to be promptly rushed to the hospital.

"I have a lot of pain in my stomach," Musenga is heard saying. "It hurts all over." The dispatcher insists the woman should seek help elsewhere and when Musenga says she cannot, the dispatcher refuses to believe the woman called one hotline but would struggle with dialing another. "I cannot do it instead of you," the dispatcher insists, before repeating the number and hanging up.

Musenga reportedly followed the dispatcher's advice and called SOS médecins, only for a doctor to arrive to her home five hours later and call the ambulance again. She was rushed to hospital but suffered a heart attack and died in the intensive care unit after suffering multiple organ failure, French newspaper Le Monde reported.

The latest revelations about the woman's death have sparked widespread outrage in France and the government has launched an inquiry into the case.

"I am profoundly outraged by the circumstances of Naomi Musenga's passing in December," Health Minister Agnès Buzyn wrote on Twitter. She promised to provide all valuable information to Musenga's family.