Assess the effectiveness of the supporting materials used in the following speech excerpt about emergency medical care.

According to emergency medicine specialist Dr. Randall Sword, emergency rooms will handle more than 160 million cases this year alone. This means that one out of every 16 Americans will spend time in an emergency room this year. Unfortunately, the National Academy of Sciences states that "emergency medical care is one of the weakest links in the delivery of health care in the nation." In fact, medical researchers estimate that 5,000 deaths annually from poisoning, drowning, and drug overdoses, as well as 20 percent of all deaths from automobile accidents, would not have happened if the victims had received prompt and proper emergency room care. One cause of this problem is that many doctors are not properly trained in emergency care. According to US News and World Report, fewer than 50 percent of emergency room physicians have completed special emergency training courses. A survey by Frey and Mangold found that untrained emergency room physicians felt they were unsure how to diagnose or treat many of the extreme abdomen, chest, and cardiac disorders that often appear in hospital emergency rooms. Another cause of the problem is that precious time is often wasted on useless paperwork before vital emergency treatment begins. Several years ago, a man driving by an elementary school in my hometown had a heart attack and crashed into a schoolyard. Seven children were taken to the emergency room three blocks away, but the real tragedy had not yet begun. Once in the emergency room, the children were denied treatment until their parents were contacted and the admitting forms were filled out. By the time the forms were completed, two of the children had died.

Quick answer:

Some of the supporting materials in this speech excerpt are from reputable sources but could be enhanced with more credibility by adding more specifics. Two of them are too vague and need more detail to establish credibility and context. The last piece of evidence is anecdotal and not established in factual evidence, and therefore, it should not be used.

Expert Answers

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Let's break the excerpt down piece by piece in terms of types of support used. As you may have learned already, arguments rely on three major kinds of support: appeals to logic, appeals to credibility, and appeals to emotion. Too much or too little of any of these can undermine...

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the effectiveness of the argument.

First, we need to know exactly what argument the speaker is trying to make. The essence of the argument is stated in the third sentence: "emergency medical care is one of the weakest links in the delivery of health care in the nation." Let's look at the appeals to credibility and logic the speaker uses in this excerpt.

For review, appealing to credibility means that the speaker/writer is communicating their own qualifications to speak on the subject or including perspectives of other experts. The speaker appeals to credibility in the first sentence when they quote Dr. Randall Sword, an emergency medical specialist. However, the statistic used doesn't necessarily do anything to bolster the speaker's argument. Saying that 160 million people visit the emergency room each year proves nothing other than the fact that lots of people visit the emergency room. However, such information can still be useful to provide background needed to set up the argument.

The speaker continues to appeal to credibility in the next sentence when the National Academy of Science is quoted. This time, the information given is relevant to the argument; in fact, it is basically the argument itself. Listeners are much more likely to believe the National Academy of Science on this issue than they are a high school student making a speech about emergency rooms, so this is quite effective.

The majority of the speech up until the end continues to cite experts for information, including the reference to "medical researchers," the quote from the US News and World Report, and the Survey by Frey and Mangold. The logic in this section of the speech is a bit questionable, however. The speaker quotes medical researchers saying that "5,000 deaths occur annually ... as well as 20% of automobile deaths would have been prevented if ...." That is an alarming number, for sure, but the speaker doesn't clarify how these numbers are related to the argument. Are these people who don't make it to the emergency room in time? People who can't afford a trip to the emergency room? In that case, the issue is with healthcare access and emergency transportation, not the emergency rooms themselves. Quoting experts and using "hard facts" is an important part of making a strong argument, but those facts should be directly connected to the argument in order to be most effective.

The other type of support used is the emotional appeal in the story used at the end of the speech. Any story about children dying because they didn't receive medical care in time is bound to pull at the audience's heart strings. However, this kind of appeal must be used carefully. In this case, the story used is fairly anecdotal. Two children dying is obviously a tragedy, but when you compare that to the 160 million people who visit the emergency room each year, it's a very, very small percentage. These kinds of anecdotes can still be used, but they may be more effective at the beginning of the speech in order to capture the audience's attention.

Overall, the argument makes a balanced use of different types of support, but the speaker needs to make sure that the evidence used is clearly connected to the argument and that these connections are explained more clearly.

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