On the 29th of November, 2009, Barry Baker called 911. He was having a heart attack. The 911 phone controllers had left the line open. They heard the paramedics arrive and then decided not to act. The reasons for the inaction were not given by the BBC. The Mail reported that the paramedics, seeing an unkempt man living in untidy conditions had decided that he was ‘not worth saving’. Barry Baker died. As Deborah Orr puts it, he was ‘not perfect enough to be treated.’
How do services prevent this sort of thing from happening? Workers will receive training, of course. Also, like any professional, these paramedics will be aware of their duty of care that requires them to act. Services will also try to screen out any ‘bad eggs’ – people who are wrong for the job.
All approaches are important but is there room to move beyond training, rule following and staff recruitment. Is there a need to talk about what Aristotle called ‘virtue.’ As Aristotle explains, virtue is not just a matter of having a good heart. It is something that must be worked at. It involves thought, reflection and maybe even trial and error as you try to work out what it is the right thing to do – ethical issues are rarely black and white.
Services have a role in nurturing ethical decision making among their staff just as they are involved in training. I’m wondering then, to what extent are discussions about ethics part of discussions about practice?