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Saturday, December 6, 2014

"I Can't Breathe" Means "I Can't Breathe" -- Why Eric Garner's Asthma-Related Death Could Have Been Prevented

According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, asthma is on the rise. In 2001, 20 million Americans had asthma. In 2009, it rose to 25 million, or 8 percent of the population. Asthma is a terrible disease that causes the airways of the lungs to swell and narrow, leading to wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing.

The largest group experiencing growing cases of asthma are African Americans, like Eric Garner, the unarmed African American who recently died when an NYPD officer put him in a chokehold while attempting to arrest him.

Alarming statistics

Here are the latest statistics regarding increases in asthma:
  • About 1 in 9 (11 percent) non-Hispanic blacks of all ages and about 1 in 6 (17 percent) of non-Hispanic black children had asthma in 2009, the highest rate among racial/ethnic groups.
  • From 2008–2010, asthma was higher among multiple-race, black, and American Indian or Alaska Native persons than white persons.
  • From 2001 through 2009 asthma rates rose the most among black children, almost a 50 percent increase.

How it feels

The fact is that asthma has no cure. People with asthma suffer from the disease which can flare up at any time. Imagine not being able to breathe. Even without a chokehold, it can feel like a chokehold. Yes, severe attacks can send people to the hospital, and they can even die.  That's what happened to Eric Garner.

Eric Garner's death could have been prevented

Eric Garner was arrested by New York City police officers for selling untaxed cigarettes. Sure, he had minor arrests in the past, but he certainly did not deserve to die. Eric suffered from severe asthma and other serious health problems.

He kept telling the police, "I can't breathe," not once but several times after one officer put a chokehold on Eric and kept it there even after Eric was cuffed. As Eric struggled on the ground, was he resisting arrest or struggling to breathe? We will never know for sure. He died enroute to the hospital.

If "no" means "no", why doesn't "I can't breathe" mean "I can't breathe"?

To read more about asthma, visit
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