Facility Nurse Watches Patient Slowly Die, Refuses CPR

87 year-old Lorraine Bayless was enjoying lunch with her friends at the Glenwood Garden senior home in Bakersfield, California when she suddenly lost consciousness and collapsed to the floor.  Staff at the facility, including a nurse, immediately rushed to Ms. Bayless’ side and called 9-1-1.  Emergency dispatcher Tracey Halvorson answered the 9-1-1 call and immediately assessed that for Ms. Bayless to live someone needed to start CPR immediately.  Ms. Bayless did not have a “DNR” or Do Not Resuscitate order and had expressed her interests that the home take life-saving measures to keep her alive.  Things then went from sad to horrific, as the nurse flatly refused to perform CPR, to allow anyone else to perform CPR and watched as Ms. Bayless slowly died before her eyes.  Here is the heart jerking 9-1-1 tape of that call between dispatcher Halvorson and the nurse at Glenwood Garden:



Most stunning to me is the tone of the nurse and Halvorson.  Halvorson clearly cares that Ms. Bayless lives and uses every tool in her box to coax the nurse into life-saving action.  The nurse cares far more about following her version of the rules than she cares about whether Ms. Bayless lives or dies.  In fact, the nurse sounds like she is a bit annoyed that she is being asked to do something.  In a completely flat tone of someone “just doing what she has been told to do without thought,” the nurse explains that “it is the policy of the facility not to perform any medical services for their residents.”

When it is clear that the nurse, who has been trained in CPR, is absolutely and completely refusing to do CPR Halvorson asks “Anybody there can do CPR. Give them the phone please. I understand if your facility is not willing to do that. Give the phone to that passerby,”

Halvorson:  ”This woman is not breathing enough. She is going to die if we don’t get this started.  If you are not willing to do it, can you hand the phone to someone who is willing to save her life?”

Nurse:  ”I understand, I am a nurse but I can’t have our other senior citizens that don’t know CPR doing that.”

Halvorson expresses her frustration: “I will instruct them, is there anyone there that can follow my instructions?”

Once again, in a dead calm and uncaring voice the nurse repeats: “I cannot do that.”

Halvorson: “I don’t understand why you are not willing to help this patient.”

Nurse:  “I am”

Halvorson:  “Great, then I will walk you through it all.  EMS takes liability for this Colleen.  I am happy to help you.  This is EMS protocol, OK?”

Nurse:  (turning away from phone and sounding annoyed with EMS) “Can you get [the supervisor] right away?  I don’t know where he is but she is yelling at me and saying that we have to have one of our other patients perform CPR and she will instruct them and I am not going to do that.  I am not going to make that call.”

Halvorson:  “Colleen, is there anyone that works there that is willing to do it?”

Nurse:  “We can’t.”

Halvorson: “Are we just going to let this lady die?”

Nurse: “Well, that’s why we are calling 9-1-1″

Halvorson:  “We can’t wait. She can’t wait right now.  She’s stopping breathing.  She can’t wait for them to get there.”

Nurse:  “[My boss] is saying we don’t.  So, you can talk to my boss and I don’t . . . ”

Halvorson:  “OK, they’re refusing CPR and they are just going to let her die.”

Nurse:  “When will the Fire Department get here?”

Halvorson:  “They’re coming as quick . . . they have been on the way this whole time.  But we can’t wait, this lady’s going to die.  OK, if you get anybody, any stranger that happens to walk by that’s willing to help, I understand your boss is telling you that you can’t do it  . . .  as a human being, I don’t know.  Is there anyone there that is willing to help this lady and not let her die?”

Nurse:  “Not at this time.”

As a nation, as a people, as individual people we have lost our compass and veered off of the path of humanity.  The Nazi’s fed on people like this, that were willing to follow the rules to the letter regardless of the humanity of the situation.  Avoiding “trouble” was so important to this cold-blooded nurse that she would rather watch one of her patients die than expose herself to the possibility that she might be sued for doing something wrong.


glenwood-gardensGlenwood Gardens In Bakersfield California where everyone was instructed not to perform CPR to save patient’s life


This is not a laughing matter in any way, but this event does remind me of the culminating episode of Seinfeld where the four main characters wind up in jail because the stand by and watch someone be seriously hurt with a “oh well, what can you do” attitude.  Unfortunately this time it was not satire, it was real life and Ms. Bayless died because no one would do anything to help her.

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