San Francisco, CA – Fifteen patients on life support and in surgery died at San Francisco General Hospital when power was cut for "Earth hour" on Saturday.
The hospital was pleased with their participation in the worldwide celebration of the planet. "We asked all the patients and their families if they were all right with us cutting the power. To a person, they all said as stewards of this planet it was their duty to observe Earth Hour. They knew the risks and were willing to take it," said hospital administrator Lawrence Cho.
Cho said that it was a net gain for planet Earth, despite the deaths. "The dead patients will no longer use any energy, and actually will be turned into energy in our patient incinerator," said hospital administrator Lawrence Cho.
As power was cut in the critical care ward some patients screamed in pain, others died calmly in their sleep. Cho said that most of the medical equipment has battery-powered back up systems, but those were disabled, because hospital officials felt that violated the spirit of Earth Hour.
Heart surgeon Dr. Gregory Morris was doing an open-heart procedure when the lights went out. "I wasn't sure what I was cutting into. Turns out it wasn't his heart, but his bowels. Unfortunately, Mr. Simms didn't make it."
Marla Tompkins, surviving sister of cancer patient Warren Tompkins, said, "Warren struggled for breath as his ventilator was powered down. I thought he might make it, but with three minutes left before power was to be turned back on, he expired. It was tragic, but kept me on the edge of the seat the whole time."
Cho hopes other hospitals learn from the example of San Francisco General and participate in next year's Earth Hour.