A question I have never heard asked before:
“Why did Dr. Nichopoulos go to Graceland after being notified of Elvis’s medical emergency?”
The answer would seem to be pretty logical, and simple: to help his patient.
But does this answer really explain the whole situation?
According to the account Dr. Nichopoulos outlined in his book, and based on the time references from the official story, Joe Esposito spoke with Nichopoulos by phone between 2:30pm and 2:33pm. How do we know this? Because Esposito says he told Nichopoulos that the ambulance had been called, but he did not say that it had arrived. The inference, then, is that the ambulance had not yet arrived. Going by general assumptions, as we must, the conversation between Esposito and Nichopoulos took place between 2:31pm and 2:32pm. (This assumes that Esposito called Nichopoulos immediately after calling for the ambulance, and that Nichopoulos returned the call to Graceland within one minute of receiving the alert on his pager.) So we have a brief conversation between Esposito and Nichopoulos at 2:31pm, lasting approximately one minute, though we do not know what was said. This is a critical question, because we again have to make an assumption, that Dr. Nichopoulos told Esposito he was on his way to Graceland, and for the paramedics to wait for him. This last point sets the entire narrative, and this instruction had to have occurred because otherwise Nichopoulos would have driven to Graceland without the certainty that his patient would still be onsite. Why go to Graceland if Elvis is not there?
Where would Elvis have gone, though? Baptist Hospital? Then why didn’t Nichopoulos just meet the ambulance there?
Remember that Nichopoulos supposedly arrived at Graceland just as the ambulance was about leave the property en route to Baptist Hospital. The ambulance did leave and did go to Baptist. But the question here is, when the ambulance was preparing the leave the property, was its destination actually Baptist? Or was its destination Methodist South? We know now that the ultimate destination was Baptist, but the question, again, is about the set destination prior to the arrival of Nichopoulos. That is, when Elvis was loaded in the ambulance and the paramedics were ready to leave, where were the paramedics required to go at that moment? By law, in 1977, they were required to go to the nearest full-service emergency department, lacking the presence of, and direction from, a physician. This is another critical point: without Nichopoulos, the ambulance was headed to Methodist South; with Nichopoulos, the ambulance was headed to the hospital chosen by Nichopoulos, which in this case was Baptist. The arrival of Nichopoulos changed the destination of the patient.
UPDATE (08/07/21): In an interview with Ulysses Jones for the ABC News case, Jones stated that Dr. Nichopoulos instructed the paramedics to go to Baptist Central, even though another full-service emergency facility was closer.
Here are the routes in question (3000 Getwell is Doctors Hospital, 922 Monroe is BMH, and 1300 Wesley is Methodist South):
This introduces the next important question: Did the paramedics load the patient and prepare to leave the property at the precise moment that the doctor arrived, or did the paramedics wait for the doctor to arrive? Did Nichopoulos arrive as the ambulance was leaving, which is part of the official account, or did the ambulance leave because Nichopoulos had arrived? The paramedics arrived at Graceland at 2:33pm and were prepared to leave the property at 2:46pm/2:47pm. This allowed for roughly 13 minutes to attend to Elvis, minus the time to enter the house and then exit the house. During this time we have been told that standard CPR procedures were implemented, all within the standard training of the paramedics. In the ambulance on the way to Baptist, these CPR efforts continued, with Nichopoulos and Jones trading off efforts. We can conclude, then, that Nichopoulos, as a physician, was not implementing any life-saving/resuscitative procedures that the paramedic (Jones) could not have handled himself. Again, then, why was Nichopoulos supposedly needed there, in the ambulance?
On the map below, we see that it is a 13-minute drive from Doctors Hospital to Graceland. (This is a 2021 map, and road conditions are different than in 1977, but the timing would still be similar.) How long were the paramedics onsite? About 13 minutes. How long did it take Nichopoulos to arrive at Graceland. About 13 minutes.
If Nichopoulos had told Esposito to get to the nearest hospital, Elvis could have conceivably been in the Methodist South ED by ~2:40pm. But since Nichopoulos told Esposito that he was heading to Graceland, the paramedics obviously waited for him. This means that if Elvis arrived at Baptist at 2:56pm and was admitted to the ED for resuscitation, this arrival at a full-service emergency department had been delayed, by Dr. Nichopoulos, for approximately 16 minutes. That is, Nichopoulos opted for a ~13-minute drive to Graceland (balanced out by the time to get to his car, plus the higher speed), and then a 9-minute drive (by ambulance*) to Baptist, instead of advising a 5-minute drive to Methodist South.
[ * Nine minutes for a 7.5-mile route? Did they not use the siren? This would mean the ambulance was traveling an average of 50mph, even though most of the route was highway.]
If a doctor believes a patient is close to death and needs a level of emergency assistance that can only be provided in a hospital emergency room, then why would he delay his patient’s arrival at an emergency room by ~16 minutes?
Were the paramedics instructed by Joe Esposito to wait for Dr. Nichopoulos? If so, under what authority? And why did the paramedics agree to this (or were they required to)?
The next question that comes to mind is this: Without knowing the true nature of Elvis’s condition (according to the official story), why did Dr. Nichopoulos need to be in that ambulance, even if it meant the ambulance’s departure for a hospital ED was delayed? One answer might be that Nichopoulos did not have privileges at Methodist South and thus could not participate in the resuscitation efforts there. But if Dr. Nichopoulos knew or suspected that Elvis had already died, or that he would die, what would be the reason he went to Graceland? Because he had to have control of the body and the situation and he knew he would have neither at Methodist South. The evidence here suggests that Nichopoulos likely knew that Elvis had died, or was close to death, and thus the doctor’s primary goal was to get himself quickly to Graceland so that he could, by his authority, direct the ambulance to Baptist. There is no indication he was there for any other reason, since paramedic Jones could have handled the CPR efforts on his own.
[Maps: Google Maps]