On February 11, [firefighter Ryna] McCuen walked into this: a mother at wit's end, a bedridden 18-year-old on a ventilator, his emergency battery power soon running out, and electricity to the home cut off by the local power company. . . .
It started as a routine call in Michigan for Clinton Township's Engine 5, a "nonemergency medical" as firefighters call it.
From CNN.What they found in the living room of this suburban Detroit double-wide mobile home was Troy Stone, who suffers Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a particularly debilitating variation of the muscle-wasting disease. Stone, who has limited movement of his limbs and is no longer able to breathe on his own, had a tracheotomy last December. His family has struggled financially, and they had fallen behind on payments to the local utility.Christy Stone, Troy's mother, said their electric bill has gone up threefold since Troy had the breathing tube inserted. It now takes seven machines, all running on electricity, to keep him alive.Despite having a letter from their doctor's office informing DTE Energy that "there must be electrical power in the home to maintain ... life support equipment," the power was still cut off."They said it wasn't the doctor's signature on it, it was the nurse's signature on it. So they said it was denied," an exasperated Christy Stone said. Nearly in tears, Stone described how she pleaded with the DTE representative to keep the power on: "How can you deny somebody that's on life support? So I did everything that I could and they just ... it's just messed up."At first, a spokesperson for DTE Energy called the situation "unfortunate" and commended the "firefighter for his actions." However, citing privacy concerns, the spokesperson declined to discuss specifics of the Stones' case except to say "we are continuing to work with the family to ensure this situation doesn't reoccur and have referred their case ... to partnering agencies for assistance."On Friday the utility issued an updated statement."This is a very unfortunate situation that we are working to rectify immediately," DTE said. "We will be working with this customer to get her the assistance she needs, which is the normal process we follow when our customers are faced with challenges in paying their bills. And we will be donating to the preferred charity of the generous and selfless firefighter who stepped up."McCuen, a 7½ year veteran of the fire department, heard Stone on the phone with DTE and said his choice became clear. "He had about three hours of battery life," McCuen said. "He needed to be plugged back in. So it seemed obvious what the solution was, that they needed their bill paid."Christy Stone was astonished at the matter-of-factness of this firefighter she didn't even know."Ryan was standing there and he looks at me and goes, 'I'm going to pay your electric bill,' and I was just like -- are you serious!?"He was, and he did.Snapping a picture of her bill, McCuen paid it, all $1,023.76 of it.
Fortunately, the firefighter had his priorities straight. And, honestly, the guy who actually shut off the power probably had no clue what was at stake when he did so, following orders from headquarters.
The really culpable parties are the bureaucrats at the electric company who rejected the request, that person's managers, and the executives and directors who put the policy in place that the bureaucrat was implementing. They, collectively, are guilty of attempted murder over a $1,023.76 debt.
The law doesn't authorize the use of deadly force to prevent or punish a non-violent theft of that amount, and certainly doesn't authorize putting someone's life in peril over an unpaid debt when that is the natural and foreseeable result of its actions that the Stone family had clearly given the electric company knowledge of in a credible way.
Of course, at a deeper level, there is also something profoundly wrong with the fact that our society allows a child's ill health to push a family into poverty as our society did in the case of the Stones.