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Dr. Martin J. Tobin, a Pulmonologist, Says George Floyd ‘Died From a Low Level of Oxygen’

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Dr. Martin J. Tobin, a pulmonologist, says shallow breathing led to George Floyd’s death.

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April 8, 2021, 10:34 a.m. ET

April 8, 2021, 10:34 a.m. ET

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Pulmonologist Says George Floyd Died From a ‘Low Level of Oxygen’

Dr. Martin J. Tobin, a world-renowned expert on breathing, testified on Thursday that George Floyd died from a “low level of oxygen.” His testimony also highlighted how force from Derek Chauvin’s knee and Mr. Floyd’s position on the concrete obstructed Mr. Floyd’s airways.

“So let’s talk about your opinions with respect to this case, have you formed an opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty on the cause of Mr. Floyd’s death?” “Yes, I have.” “Would you please tell the jury what that opinion, or opinions, are?” “Yes, Mr. Floyd died from a low level of oxygen, and this caused damage to his brain that we see. And it also caused a P.E.A. arrhythmia that caused his heart to stop. The cause of the low level of oxygen was shallow breathing, small breaths, small tidal volumes, shallow breaths that weren’t able to carry the air through his lungs, down to the essential areas of the lungs that get oxygen into the blood and get rid of the carbon dioxide — that’s the alveoli at the bottom of the lung. The main forces that are going to lead to the shallow breath are going to be that he’s turned prone on the street, that he has the handcuffs in place combined with the street, and then that he has a knee on his neck, and then that he has a knee on his back and on his side. All of these four forces are ultimately going to result in the low tidal volume, which gives you the shallow breaths that we saw here. And so the air will not be able to reach those air sacs — we just saw in the video where the oxygen is exchanged and the carbon dioxide is removed. What you’re seeing is the orientation of Officer Chauvin, his body build is quite erect here. But in particular, what you’re seeing is that the toe of his boot is no longer touching the ground. This means that all of his body weight is being directed down at Mr. Floyd’s neck.”

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Dr. Martin J. Tobin, a world-renowned expert on breathing, testified on Thursday that George Floyd died from a “low level of oxygen.” His testimony also highlighted how force from Derek Chauvin’s knee and Mr. Floyd’s position on the concrete obstructed Mr. Floyd’s airways.CreditCredit…Still image, via Court TV

Dr. Martin J. Tobin, a pulmonologist and critical care physician from the Chicago area, was the first witness prosecutors called to the stand in the Derek Chauvin trial on Thursday.

When prosecutors asked if he had formed a medical opinion on what had caused George Floyd’s death, Dr. Tobin said, “Mr. Floyd died from a low level of oxygen, and this caused damage to his brain that we see, and it also caused a P.E.A. arrhythmia because his heart stopped,” referring to pulseless electrical activity, or cardiac arrest.

The low level of oxygen was caused by “shallow breathing,” he said. Mr. Floyd’s prone position and his being handcuffed, and Mr. Chauvin’s knee on his neck and back, he said, contributed to the shallow breathing.

Dr. Tobin added that the position in which Mr. Floyd was handcuffed, with the force of the officers compounding with the asphalt street, ultimately prevented him from being able to breathe fully.

“It’s how the handcuffs are being held, how they’re being pushed, where they’re being pushed that totally interfere with central features of how we breathe,” he said.

Mr. Chauvin’s knee placed on the left side of his chest would have limited the amount of air being able to enter the left lung, Dr. Tobin said, as if “a surgeon had gone in and removed the lung,” he said.

Dr. Tobin attended medical school at University College Dublin and is an expert in acute respiratory failure, mechanical ventilation and neuromuscular control of breathing.

He is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Internal Medicine Subspecialty Pulmonary Disease.

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