I’m in shock about the case where a nurse refused to give CPR to 87 year old Lorraine Bayless in a California senior living facility – a housing setup akin to an apartment complex.
Ms. Bayless fell unconscious in the dining room of a senior living facility. Facility members called 911. Ms. Bayless wasn’t breathing and the 911 operator recommended that the facility member perform CPR. The person at the facility would not perform CPR.
It took EMTs about 7 minutes to arrive on scene. Ms. Bayless later died from a “massive stroke.”
The 7 minute call can be heard HERE in its entirety.
A couple of other things made known in the case were that the senior living community did not have any trained medical staff. Remember – the facility was similar to an apartment house. In addition, Ms. Bayless had made known her intentions to “die naturally…without any kind of life-prolonging intervention.” According to the family, Ms. Bayless knew that there were no medical staff when she decided to live at the facility.
So why am I in shock?
Look at all the whacked out opinions that are being generated from this case.
Some people demand criminal charges be filed against the people who wouldn’t help.
One person recommends “Depraved Indifference Homicide”
Another person notes that if a law says that “you cannot deliberately withhold medical care from a dying person” then ignorance of the law is no excuse for failing to act – applying that hypothetical to this case, of course.
Bakersfield California police are looking into whether there was anything criminal and the county Aging and Adult Services Department is determining whether “elder abuse” may have taken place because of the incident.
The thing is that if criminal charges were appropriate, then everyone in the dining room of the senior living facility who saw Ms. Bayless collapse would have to be thrown in jail. No one helped her. Let’s just charge everybody with a crime.
California can’t pay its bills as it is, so it is unlikely that they will criminally charge a group of elderly patients requiring nursing care and then be required to provide continuing medical care to them. Maybe they’ll all get electronic monitoring bracelets and weekly visits via the wheelchair van to a parole officer, instead.
Then the “experts” across the news stations pile on.
Virginia Commonwealth professor of geriatrics Dr. Peter Boling stated that without advance directives, patients “wind up sometimes in a very painful and trying situation.” This quote seems to acknowledge that patients may receive unwanted CPR if there is any question about a patient’s wishes.
CBS legal analyst Jack Ford calls the actions “morally reprehensible” but also notes that our society has become much too litigious.
Ah, but what about California’s Good Samaritan statute? It exempts people who provide emergency care from liability for civil damages, but it also contains exceptions. Providers have to act in “good faith”. It doesn’t apply to those who are grossly negligent. And it doesn’t apply if the provider is being compensated. Employees of the senior living facility are, by definition, being compensated. So a plaintiff’s attorney may have the ability to circumvent the protections afforded in the Good Samaritan statute just through the “compensation” angle.
Other people argued that the 911 operator took all liability for the actions of the nurse. How does such a promise, which is essentially a verbal contract, absolve the nurse from liability when the nurse is the one performing the actions? If a lawsuit was filed, the nurse would still be named regardless of the 911 operator’s promises.
Then there’s the question of a DNR order. According to the Bakersfield Fire Department there wasn’t such an order on hand when paramedics arrived. Not that people carry DNR orders around with them in their pockets or anything. After all, this was a dining room in an apartment complex, not an ICU bed. But even if that was the case, does there have to be a readily producible advance directive available to prevent unwanted care?
A sweet old lady entered a senior living facility knowing that there were no trained medical staff and not wanting any life-prolonging treatment.
Now a firestorm has come down on the living facility for abiding by the patient’s wishes and pundits all over the internet are basically demanding that we perform medical procedures on patients who don’t want them. Don’t agree? It’s off to jail with you. You’re a criminal.
Ms. Bayless’ family issued a statement saying in part
We regret that this private and most personal time has been escalated by the media. Caregivers, nurses and other medical professionals have very difficult waters to tread in the legal and medical landscape of our country today.
About the only thing potentially criminal about this case was the unauthorized dissemination of Ms. Bayless’ private health information to the media.
Are state and local authorities investigating that?