George Floyd’s Pre-Existing Conditions And Drug Use Had No Impact On His Death, Says Doctor

by : Cameron Frew on : 09 Apr 2021 10:11
George Floyd's Pre-Existing Conditions And Drug Use Had No Impact On His Death, Says DoctorRufus Thompson

A lack of oxygen caused George Floyd’s death, not pre-existing conditions or drug use, a doctor at Derek Chauvin’s murder trial said. 

The 45-year-old former Minneapolis police officer is facing third-degree murder, second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges following the death of Floyd, 46, in May last year. He leaned on his neck during the arrest, which a number of witnesses have already described as ‘unauthorised’ and having ‘no justification’.


A month later, a toxicology report noted Floyd had the painkiller fentanyl in his system, as well as methamphetamine, which the defence argue may have been a factor in his passing. However, a medical expert disagrees.

As reported by BBC News and The Guardian, Dr. Martin Tobin, who’s been a pulmonary and critical care specialist for the past 40 years, said even a ‘healthy person subjected to what Mr. Floyd was subjected to would have died’, dismissing the claim of fentanyl playing a role.

Tobin described Floyd as being stuck in a ‘vice’ between Chauvin’s knee, which pressed down on his neck for nearly nine minutes, and the street. ‘Mr. Floyd died from a low level of oxygen and this caused damage to his brain,’ the doctor said.


He added, ‘[Floyd] is jammed down against the street, so the street is playing a major role in preventing him from expanding his chest. He’s against a hard asphalt street, so the way they’re pushing down on his handcuffs combined with the street… it was almost to the effect that if a surgeon had gone in and removed the lung.’

Tobin likened it to ‘breathing through a straw’ but even tougher, noting Floyd’s efforts to get air during the ordeal in the footage. ‘He has used up his resources and is literally trying to breathe with his fingers and knuckles against the street to try to crank up his chest, to try to get air into his right lung,’ he said.

He told the court, ‘You can see he’s conscious, you can see slight flickering and then it disappears. One second he’s alive, one second he’s no longer.’


Defence attorney Eric Nelson later suggested Floyd’s blood flow would be affected by ‘some heart disease’ – however, the doctor said Floyd would be ‘complaining of chest pain and demonstrating a very rapid respiratory rate… we don’t see either’.

Tobin also cautioned against using Floyd’s ability to say ‘I can’t breathe’ as evidence of him being able to breathe, something which was echoed by Nicole Mackenzie, a former EMT and the medical support coordinator for the police department.

As per The Independent, she said, ‘There is a possibility that somebody could be in respiratory distress and still be able to verbalise it. Just because they’re speaking doesn’t mean they’re breathing adequately.’


Chauvin’s trial is in its second week, and is expected to continue for at least a month.

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: News, Derek Chauvin, George Floyd, Now, US


BBC News and 2 others
  1. BBC News

    George Floyd died from lack of oxygen, not fentanyl, says expert

  2. The Guardian

    George Floyd died from lack of oxygen caused by restraint, lung expert testifies

  3. The Independent

    Just because George Floyd could talk, it doesn’t mean he had enough air, police medic tells trial