Dying Woman Denied CPR: Has Society Lost All Moral Standards?

An elderly woman died in a California assisted living home after a nurse at the facility refused to perform CPR. In a chilling 911 call that resulted in the dispatcher pleading for the woman to receive help, the nurse revealed that she or any other employee were not allowed to perform the life saving act. Did the nurse lack a complete ethical conscience or was she simply trying to save her job? Is her inaction indicative of a larger trend of selfishness in society? This tragedy is inexcusable, and should serve as a wake-up call for doing the right thing.

The incident occurred inside a Bakersfield, Calif., retirement facility, in which an 87-year-old woman stopped breathing and was unresponsive.  A nurse attended to the scene, but when she made a call to 911, things took a dark turn.

 

"Yeah, we can't do CPR at this facility,” the nurse said.

Dispatcher: "OK, then hand the phone to the passerby. If you can't do it, I need, hand it to the passerby, I'll have her do it. Or if you've got any citizens there, I'll have them do it."

Nurse: “No, no, it's not."

Dispatcher: "Anybody there can do CPR. Give them the phone, please ... This woman's not breathing enough. She's going to die if we don't get this started."

"I don't understand why you're not willing to help this patient. Is there anybody that works there that's willing to do it?"

Nurse: "We can't do that. That's what I'm trying to say."

Dispatcher: "Are we just going to let this lady die?" the dispatcher says.

Nurse: "Well, that's why we're calling 911," the nurse replies.

Dispatcher: "We can't wait. She can't wait right now. She is stopping breathing. Is there anybody there that's willing to help this lady and not let her die?"

Nurse: "Um, not at this time."

The woman was pronounced dead on arrival when reaching the hospital. In a statement released by the Glenwood Gardens Retirement Facility, they defend that the nurse was simply following protocol.

"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. That is the protocol we followed,” representatives of the home stated.

The fact that the woman resided in assisted living as opposed to a nursing home presents further complications. Nursing home employees have medical trained professionals that have different emergency protocol. This private facility certainly had their own procedures (or lack of) when dealing with such events.

It is hard to fathom that a simple lack of action has invited a slew of legal and moral arguments. The Good Samaritan laws come into play, especially since they vary by state. Simply put, the nurse’s role in the woman’s death is an ethical disgrace. In an age where companies and employers fear any form of liability, instances such as this unfortunately occur. One should not have to convince someone to do the right thing, but apparently you do.

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Shawna Gillen

Shawna is currently studying Political Science and Psychology at Marist College. She has a passion for politics and is an aspiring lawyer. In her spare time she likes to play club women's rugby, and contributes as the Co-News Editor for Marist's student newspaper.

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