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Now ER Doctors Want L.A. County To Ban Raves

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The crowd at Hard Sumer (Photo by Perhansa Skallerup/LAist)
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ER doctors are now joining L.A. County in calling for a ban on raves following the suspected overdose deaths at the HARD Summer music festival earlier this month.

Several L.A. ER doctors say that large raves are a threat to public health and the solution is to shut them down. In a Q&A with the the L.A. Times, the doctors explain that the culture of drug use, long hours of dancing, high temperatures and other factors make raves more dangerous than types of large events and lead to overwhelmed ERs. Dr. Brian Johnston, chair of the emergency medicine department at White Memorial Medical Center, says, "I have seen 16-, 17-, 18-year-old kids with heart attacks. You don't see that from other events. This is a different animal."

And while L.A. County Supervisors are calling for a temporary moratorium on raves to find ways to make them safer, these docs aren't convinced that can be done and think they should be banned outright. From the August 1 and 2 HARD Summer festival, emergency rooms around the county reportedly received 49 people, including the two suspected overdose deaths, and 28 of them went to The Pomona Valley hospital. Dr. Philip Fagan Jr., emergency department director at Good Samaritan Hospital near downtown L.A., says banning raves is the only way to reduce the risk to public health. "If the county wants to make money while people are dying and medically compromised ... they should come out and say it."

The ER doctors contend that a variety of factors are sending people to emergency rooms from raves in such high numbers. Ecstasy is targeted as the number one culprit, often leading to dangerously high temperatures—as high as 109 degrees—which can lead to organ failure and death, explain the doctors. And while dehydration—brought on by ecstasy, extended heat exposure and "marathon dancing"—can be a danger, so can drinking too much water. Excessive water intake can cause sodium levels to crash, a condition known as hyponatremia, which can cause seizures and fatal comas. The doctors also report seeing kidney failures, heart attacks and more as a result of drug use at festivals. "Maybe it's the lack of supervision—maybe it's poor security at the door, maybe it's the culture of that's what you do at a rave—the only reason you go and listen to this electronic music is when you're really high on Ecstasy," says Dr. Marc Futernick, medical director for emergency services at Dignity Health California Hospital Medical Center. “You just can't ignore, at the end of the day, that we see these happening at these events and we don't see them elsewhere."

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Live Nation Entertainment, the promoter of HARD Summer, says that they are cooperating with the county's request to investigate safety concerns. They also told the L.A. Times that they had two primary medical tents set up, which included 3 ER doctors, 13 nurses and 63 emergency medical technicians. L.A. County fairground management also says they support the call for enhanced safety procedures.

Meanwhile, supporters of electronic music dance festivals in L.A County have started a petition to keep raves and festivals going in the county. The petition explains, “We believe ‘raves’ offer positive benefits to society, encouraging creativity, providing jobs to local artists and cultivating the values of empathy, peace and unity amongst event attendees who then carry those values back into our local communities. We believe working with the Electronic Music Alliance, L.A. can help make these events the most positive experience by using our expertise and best practices to develop better ways to protect and encourage responsible behavior amongst patrons.”