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The Legal Guardian
by David Givot

Trial by Media: The FDNY EMT Case

Editor's Note: When the story first broke last month on the two FDNY EMTS being accused of refusing to help a dying pregnant woman, EMS1 columnist David Givot was invited to share his expert perspective on CNN. Check out the video here.

By David Givot

When did it become inconvenient to discover all of the facts before casting judgment? It seems that this new world of instant information and instant gratification has mutated into a world of instant castigation. It seems the world is all too willing to believe and react to what we think we see without bothering to understand what we actually see. Consequently, by the time the dust settles and reality is revealed, the damage of that reaction is done.

Such may be the case for two FDNY dispatchers accused of ignoring pleas for help and letting a 25-year-old pregnant woman die.

Last month, Eutisha Rennix, a cashier at a bakery in downtown Brooklyn, New York, near the fire department's headquarters, developed shortness of breath. EMT/Dispatchers Jason Green and Melissa Jackson were inside the bakery at the time. That is about all we know for sure.

The rest of the story, according to various news reports and statements made by those closest to the individuals involved, is anything but clear. One alleged witness paints a picture of a woman falling dead to the floor, at the feet of the EMTs who callously ignore her and leave the store sipping coffee and [metaphorically] laughing. Another says the woman collapsed in a back room and not within the EMTs' sight. Still another says the EMTs saw that she was having difficulty breathing, while yet another says that the two were only told that the woman was in the back of the bakery feeling ill. So what really happened? We don't know.

Nevertheless, not knowing what really happened that morning has not dissuaded outlets like the New York Post, CBS, and others from reporting the unknown as fact. Perhaps the most scathing and, at that moment, unsubstantiated criticism came from the mayor himself. Shortly after the incident, with no more information than what you have read so far, Michael Bloomberg told a TV news crew: "There's no excuse whatsoever...Drop your coffee and go help somebody if they're dying. Come on." What happened to the days of standing by your employees or at least remaining neutral until the investigation is complete?

If it is true that the two could have done something other than what they did or didn't do, then shame on them and let the punishment fit the act. But, as I write and as you read, we don't know what really happened and nobody seems to care.

Well, I care. I care because two careers have been irrevocably tainted if not ruined altogether by an angry mob quick to judge but slow to verify; vilified by the City that, moments earlier trusted them with their collective lives.

If it is ultimately determined that the two were negligent or worse, then let the chips fall where they may. But until then, slow down, take a deep breath and reserve judgment. And always remember that the fingers pointing at them can just as quickly be pointed at you.

About the author

David Givot, Esq., graduated from the UCLA Center for Prehospital Care (formerly DFH) in June 1989 and spent most of the next decade working as a Paramedic responding to 911 in Glendale, CA, with the (then BLS only) fire department. By the end of 1998, he was traveling around the country working with distressed EMS agencies teaching improved field provider performance through better communication and leadership practices. David then moved into the position of director of operations for the largest ambulance provider in the Maryland. Now, back in Los Angeles, he has earned his law degree and is a practicing Defense Attorney still looking to the future of EMS. In addition to defending EMS Providers, both on the job and off, he has created TheLegalGuardian.com as a vital step toward improving the state of EMS through information and education designed to protect EMS professionals - and agencies - nationwide. David can be contacted via e-mail at david.givot@ems1.com.
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