Nurse refuses to do CPR on elderly woman in a nursing home

Attorney Katherine Loper
Attorney Katherine Loper
A California 911 dispatcher begs a nurse at an independent living facility to perform CPR on an elderly woman who collapsed, fell unconscious and was barely breathing. The call and the response are raising questions over policies at some senior facilities.  During the 911 call, the dispatcher desperately tried to get the nurse to find someone who would try to save the 87-year-old woman if she wouldn’t perform CPR herself.  œIs there a gardener … any staff? Anybody that doesn’t work for you, anywhere? the dispatcher asks, according to the 911 call. œCan we flag someone down in the street and get them to help this lady? As a human being, I don’t, you know, is there anybody that’s willing to help this lady and not let her die?”  The dispatcher pleaded for anyone to help the 87-year-old woman before the ambulance arrives, but the nurse on the other end of the phone said it was against facility policy for staff to administer CPR.
The incident happened Tuesday at Glenwood Gardens in Bakersfield.    The executive director of Glenwood Gardens, Jeffrey Toomer, defended the nurse’s actions, saying she did indeed follow policy.  “In the event of a health emergency at this independent living community our practice is to immediately call emergency medical personnel for assistance and to wait with the individual needing attention until such personnel arrives,” Toomer said in a written statement. “That is the protocol we followed.”  Toomer offered condolences to the woman’s family and said a “thorough internal review” of the incident would be conducted.  He told KGET-TV that residents of the home’s independent living community are informed of the policy and agree to it when they move in. He said the policy does not apply at the adjacent assisted living and skilled nursing facilities.
I disagree with policies like Glenwood’s.  The nurse had a moral obligation to help.  It’s shocking where you hear a nurse saying she can’t perform CPR on a patient who clearly needs it.
Read more: Never Event Blog

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