Legality over humanity

March 8, 2013 

I cannot even listen to the 9-1-1 tapes any longer. It just gets worse and worse each time I do.

That a nurse in California chose no action over potentially life-saving measures at a nursing home recently just sickens me. I simply cannot fathom how someone could sit by and watch a human being – a mother, friend, someone in their care – take three breaths over five minutes and not be compelled to do something.

Are we that paralyzed by fear of legal action?

If you haven’t listened to this 9-1-1 tape between a dispatcher in Bakersfield, Calif., and a nurse who was supposedly attending to 87-year-old Lorraine Bayless, you should. But only listen once or twice, because as unconscionable as it seems, you will hear a person slowly die without a single soul coming to her aid.

And what’s even more disgusting is this nursing home, Glenwood Gardens, says it fulfilled its legal obligation to this resident – standing by its “no CPR” stance for its employees.

This business chose some legal obligation over a human life, plain and simple.

I understand the risks of giving someone well into his or her 80s chest compressions. But Bayless was surrounded by people in this dining room, a nurse who sounded like she could care less about helping her and an administration that is so worried about its bottom line that they let a resident die.

And what about that policy of Glenwood Gardens? That staff calls emergency personnel and administers no aid? What if Bayless had been shot, stabbed, bitten by a dog? The line between compassion and outright ignorance should be pretty far apart in our society. Unfortunately for Bayless last week, it was not.

And her nurse did nothing to help. The dispatcher repeatedly asked for her to find someone off property, a stranger even, to hand the phone to. But like some 18-year-old reading from a script at a fast food joint, the nurse stuck to the party line while Bayless passed away.

The nurse even seemed frazzled by the thought of helping Bayless, or asking someone else to, falsely saying the dispatcher was yelling at her. If she is that easily shaken, she shouldn’t be working with elderly people.

I shutter to think what other facilities have this black and white policy in place. Many senior living companies have responded by saying that while they are hesitant to give CPR, that it is up to each employee to make that decision.

And that is at the heart of what is wrong here and wrong with these companies – no one is empowered to make an actual decision themselves.

And because of that ridiculous policy, we sat by and listened for seven minutes as Lorraine Bayless was untreated and uncared for.

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