This is a tough call. The pressure to say “they had the expertise; they should have acted” is heightened by our knowledge of subsequent events: the unhappy deaths of the six-months-pregnant Rennix and her child. But think about your own situation. Whatever your particular training or talents, do you feel other people should have the right to call on them at any time of the day, when you’re not on the job, and probably for no pay? Suppose you were having a breakfast at a café, and a stranger came over and said “could you add up these figures for me,” or “my friend here would like to hear you recite a speech from Hamlet” or “please fix my carburetor; it’ll only take a minute”?
In fact, Green and Jackson were not active-duty EMTs: they had received EMT training, certainly, but they worked upstairs from the café (it was an Au Bon Pain) in a medical communications dispatch center, and were on break when the incident occurred. They were not contractually obligated to handle such a medical emergency, and perhaps not legally bound to do so either (although the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office is investigating potential charges). Through their attorney, they claim that protocol, training, and regulations governed their decision not to act in this case. What is more unfortunate is that the EMTs who did respond to the emergency call eleven minutes after it was placed (Green and Jackson’s attorney also claims Jackson bypassed 9-1-1 and dialed her own dispatch center directly, for a quicker response) did not have the proper equipment to treat the ailing, asthmatic victim.
So Green and Jackson may be legally in the clear. But all that being said, wouldn’t it have been more ethical, more humane, to go ahead and provide aid and comfort to a suffering human being? I would think so. The sad thing is, if Rennix had died anyway, because she was beyond either their expertise level or available equipment, her relatives might have sued Green and Jackson nonetheless. That’s probably what they feared, and unfortunately what they may be facing anyway.