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NY EMT Workers Allegedly Ignore Dying Pregnant Woman

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By Minara El-Rahman on December 22, 2009 9:15 AM

NBC News NY reports that two NY EMT workers for the fire department have been suspended for failure to act during an emergency that resulted in a pregnant woman dying.

The two NY EMT workers, Jason Green, 32, of Long Island City and Melissa Jackson, 32, of Queens Village have been suspended because of their failure to act to save the life of Eutisha Rennix when she collapsed on the floor of an Au Bon Pain restaurant at the Metrotech Center in Brooklyn, where she worked as a cashier. She had collapsed on the floor of the bathroom in the back.

Green and Jackson were in the restaurant on break. Several employees and customers asked the two NY EMT workers for help, but the two workers allegedly just told them to call 911 and left the store without helping the pregnant woman.

The NY Post reports that Mayor Bloomberg was furious during his press conference regarding the incident. He was quoted by the NY Post as saying: "The Fire Department, including EMS, is responsible for life-saving, and their first responsibility is to do that. But even if they weren't part of the Fire Department sworn to protect all of us, just normal human beings, drop your coffee and go help somebody if they're dying. C'mon."

It seems from reports that while the NY EMT workers were on break, they were still in uniform. Whether or not they were in uniform should not matter. A union spokesperson told AP that NY EMT workers consider their job as a 24 hour kind of job: "Our people tend to spring into action whether they're on duty, off duty, whatever they're doing," said Robert Ungar, spokesman for the Uniformed EMTS and Paramedics, FDNY. The city's EMTs have a "very strong bond with the people of New York City that they serve," he said. "They view themselves as always being on duty."

While this incident is tragic, it is not the first time that trained medical personnel have been guilty of failure to act. According to NBC News NY, Ms. Esmin Green collapsed on the floor of Kings County Hospital's Psychiatric Emergency Room back in June 2008. Video footage showed how doctors, nurses, and security guards ignored her for hours.

According to the NY Post, A union official said EMT members are not contractually entitled to a responsibility-free meal period; members on duty and in uniform have an obligation to act in an emergency, and leaving a patient is "an act of abandonment," he said. As a result of the EMT workers actions, Ms. Rennix' family is considering suing the city.  

At common law, there is no duty to rescue another person, even if it is clear that the person will die without help. The duty may arise, however, if the two people have a special relationship with one another, like parent and child or husband and wife. If a person without one of these special relationships decides to help another, he or she must exercise reasonable care in rendering the aid. If the injured person is further harmed because the person providing help did not exercise reasonable care, then the injured person can sue for civil damages.

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