Woman denied CPR 'wanted no intervention'

2013-03-06 15:03
A car passes through the gate of Glenwood Gardens in Bakersfield, California  where an elderly woman died after a nurse refused to perform CPR on her. (Gosia Wozniacka, AP)

A car passes through the gate of Glenwood Gardens in Bakersfield, California where an elderly woman died after a nurse refused to perform CPR on her. (Gosia Wozniacka, AP)

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Sacramento - The company whose employee refused to administer CPR to a dying woman said on Tuesday that the employee wrongly interpreted its policy. But the elderly woman's family said she would not have wanted life-prolonging aid.

The family's statement to the Associated Press absolving an elder care home of blame came less than 1 hour before the company issued a statement saying the employee's failure to heed an emergency dispatcher's instructions was the result of a misunderstanding of the company's emergency medical practices.

The developments were the latest twist in a controversy following release of a tape of an emergency call that recounts a dramatic 7-minute conversation on 26 February between a dispatcher and a nurse who refused to co-operate with pleas for someone to start CPR as firefighters sped to the scene.

The dispatcher insisted that the woman who identified herself as a nurse perform CPR or find someone willing to do it. Lorraine Bayless, an 87-year-old resident of the Glenwood Gardens independent living home, later died.

Bayless' family said she was aware that Glenwood Gardens did not offer trained medical staff, yet opted to live there anyway. "It was our beloved mother and grandmother's wish to die naturally and without any kind of life prolonging intervention," said the statement. "We understand that the 911 tape of this event has caused concern, but our family knows that mom had full knowledge of the limitations of Glenwood Gardens and is at peace."

The home's parent company, Brookdale Senior Living, later said, "This incident resulted from a complete misunderstanding of our practice with regards to emergency medical care for our residents. Glenwood Gardens is conducting a full internal investigation." The company said the employee was on voluntary leave during the process.

Multiple investigations


City fire officials say Bayless did not have a "do not resuscitate" order on file at the home. The family and the company have not commented

Glenwood Gardens is an independent living facility, and company officials say no medical staff is employed there. The woman who identified herself as a nurse to the dispatcher was employed at the facility as a resident services director, the company said.

The nurse's decision has prompted multiple state and local investigations.

The California attorney general was "aware" of the incident, said a spokesperson, Lynda Gledhill. Bakersfield police were trying to determine whether a crime was committed when the nurse refused to assist the emergency dispatcher looking for someone to start CPR.

The nation's largest trade group for senior living facilities has called for its members to review policies that employees might interpret as edicts to not co-operate with emergency responders.

"It was a complete tragedy," said Maribeth Bersani, senior vice president of the Assisted Living Federation of America. "Our members are now looking at their policies to make sure they are clear. Whether they have one to initiate [CPR] or not, they should be responsive to what the 911 person tells them to do."

Peace

Bayless collapsed in the Glenwood Gardens dining hall on 26 February. Someone called the emergency dispatcher on a cellphone asking for an ambulance to be sent and eventually a woman who identified herself as a nurse got on the line.

Brookdale Senior Living said in a statement that the woman on the emergency call was "serving in the capacity of a resident services director, not a nurse".

The Tennessee-based parent company also said that by law, the independent living facility is "not licensed to provide medical care to any of its residents." But it added later that it was reviewing company policies "involving emergency medical care across all of our communities."

Bayless' family said she was aware that Glenwood Gardens did not offer trained medical staff, yet opted to live there anyway.

"We understand that the 911 tape of this event has caused concern, but our family knows that mom had full knowledge of the limitations of Glenwood Gardens and is at peace," the family's statement said.

The death shines a light on the varying medical care that different types of elderly housing provide - differences that consumers may not be aware of, advocates say.

No law suit

Even if independent living homes lack trained medical staff, some say they should be ready to perform basic services such as CPR if needed.

The California Board of Registered Nursing is concerned that the woman who spoke to the emergency dispatcher did not respond to requests to provide aid or to find someone who might want to help.

"If she's not engaged in the practice of nursing, there's no obligation [to help]," agency spokesperson Russ Heimerich said. "What complicates this further is the idea that she wouldn't hand the phone over either. So that's why we want to look into it."

The family said it would not sue or try to profit from the death, and called it "a lesson we can all learn from".

"We regret that this private and most personal time has been escalated by the media," the statement said.


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