In Defense of NY EMTs Accused of Ignoring Dying Patient

Posted by on Apr 9, 2014 in Articles & Columns

NY EMTA recent New York Daily News headline exclaimed: “City medic who failed to help pregnant Au Bon Pain worker dying of asthma attack dodges lawsuit” while another headline said “Case Against Lazy EMT Workers Dismissed on Technicality” and across the internet, blogs and news articles reopen this wound with similarly objectionable headlines.

Once again, sensationalism and political correctness have overtaken rationality and common sense…and I have a problem with that.

When the story broke, the entire world raced to judgment and castigated, with illimitable contempt and unforgiving vitriol, Melisa Jackson and Jason Green, two EMS Dispatchers & EMTs who were eating in the front of a Brooklyn Au Bon Pain when Eutisha Rennix, a restaurant employee, was reportedly having an asthma attack in the back.

When Jackson and Green were made aware of the situation, neither had any lifesaving equipment and both understood quickly that there was little or nothing they could do at the patient’s side beyond trying to keep her calm. Rather than waste precious time, one immediately called 911 from a mobile phone, while the other reportedly sprinted to get help from a nearby fire station.

Ms. Rennix was ultimately transported to a nearby hospital where she succumbed to respiratory and cardiac arrest.

By itself, the death of this 25-year-old woman, who was pregnant at the time, is tragic beyond words. However, the grief and sorrow that understandably followed, does not excuse the angry-mob-like rush to judgment against Jackson and Green.

Within hours – without all the facts, without any of the most essential details – the Mayor of New York City gave a press conference in which he essentially called the two Dispatchers monsters and their actions unforgivable. Naturally, the fuming mob was further incited; the story became that the two refused to help because Ms. Rennix was black, despite the absolute lack of supporting evidence, and the two were forced into hiding.

Fast-forward to 2014 and the above-referenced headlines that continue to criticize and condemn Jackson and Green.

At the time, I was the only one to appear on TV in defense of these two and, years later, I stand by my position: Jackson and Green did not contribute to the death of Eutisha Rennix; there is no evidence that suggests anything they did or didn’t do could have or would have changed the outcome.

FACT: We were not there, we don’t “know” what happened.

FACT: An EMT with no equipment is nothing more than an advanced first-aid provider. Jackson and Green were EMTs with no equipment.

FACT: Even the best first-aid provider is essentially helpless in the face of an asthma attack. In the face of an asthma attack, there would have been nothing Jackson and Green could have done.

FACT: The most appropriate action for anyone, without proper medical equipment, to take in the face of an acute asthma attack is to call 911. That is what Jackson and Green did or attempted to do.

Had she been injured or bleeding or giving birth, then their skills – even without tools or equipment – would have been valuable, but such was not the case.

Instead, it seems that we have become a society that simply must hold someone accountable in every situation; every bad thing must be someone’s fault – even when no one is at fault.

We have become a society of blame rather than responsibility.

It seems we have become a society whose judgments are based more on appearance than reality; perception is reality, after all.

NO! Perception is NOT reality! Reality is reality and the reality of this situation is that Jackson and Green did what they thought was best in the face of a horrible situation. That’s all.

Could they have acted differently? Sure. Would it have been a good idea for at least one of them to check on the patient so they could provide a better report later? Sure.

But let’s not confuse that with ambivalence or apathy.  Even more important is to not confuse it with some underlying racial motivation. Nothing good comes of fueling a fire that never should have been lit.

The world is tough enough for everyone, especially for EMS providers who thanklessly serve the public. I implore the media to remain objective. I understand that sensational headlines generate business, but misleading headlines generate hatred and animosity that serves no greater purpose.

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