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KD MAGAZINE! 
Posted: Monday, January 15, 2007  -
כ"ה בטבת, תשס"ז

 
 
 
   
 

Pur-Suing Change

Rabbi Shea Hecht
About the Author

Should the death of a child be a strong enough motivator for change? Or should change require a lawsuit?

Shawn Martinez has filed a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court against the city's Department of Education, two nurses and their employer, Comprehensive Resources Inc. 

The lawsuit states that school policy prevented nurses from calling 911 to help his 11-year-old son, also named Shawn. For some incomprehensible reason, the law bars nurses from calling 911 without the principal's permission. The problem was that when Shawn Martinez had trouble breathing, the principal of the school could not be found.

An hour after the asthma attack started 11 year old Shawn Martinez was dead.

Former school nurse Maryellen Johnson said in her deposition that the nurses were bound by the 911 policy that they could not call 911 unless they first get permission from the principal.

This story highlights something so ugly I hate to think about it. We have become so lawsuit sensitive that we have trapped ourselves in a corner and let an 11 year old child die. And what can only be considered worse, no change was implemented until three years later when a $2 million dollar lawsuit was filed.

Last week public school principals citywide were reminded how to handle medical emergencies. Principals were told that 911 calls shouldn't be delayed in life-threatening situations.

"Please ensure that your entire staff is aware of these requirements," read part of the weekly letter e-mailed to the city's 1,451 principals.

The horrid fact that those in the school system were afraid to make a move in a life threatening situation without the principal's involvement because of fear of a lawsuit for not following the rules, was contrasted by two "hero" stories this same week.

Julio Gonzalez, 43, and Pedro Nevarez, 40, saw 3-year-old Timothy Addo dangling from a Bronx building on Thursday, and caught him as he fell four flights.

Wesley Autrey jumped on the tracks on the NY city subway system to save the life of a student. Though he was called a hero some have said that he was foolish to risk his own life especially considering the fact that his two young daughters were with him.

I can't say that anyone would have blamed Wesley Autrey had he not jumped onto the tracks. Others were standing there with him and did not act as he did. Maybe some would not even have blamed Gonzalez and Nevarez, after all there was some risk for harm to themselves when the toddler dropped on them from four flights up. But what if the three men would have been in fear of lawsuit and allowed the toddler and teen to die?

And how can one excuse a school that is charged with not only teaching, but taking care of and protecting the children in their care for allowing a child to die because they couldn't break the rule and call 911. It's beyond anything excusable.

There are lawsuits that are filed for financial gain, some for punishment or revenge and those that are filed to force a change.

Shawn Martinez's lawsuit will hopefully force change in the way the school system handles an emergency, but it's sad that the death of a child wasn't enough of a motivator - that it also took a lawsuit.

 

Read more articles by Rabbi Hecht 

Rabbi Hecht's Website:  www.sheahecht.com  

 

 
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