Reporting Mary Robb Jackson
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — For seven minutes and 16 seconds last Tuesday, a 911 dispatcher pleaded with a nurse to begin CPR on 87-year-old Lorraine Bayless.
Dispatcher: “Is she breathing?”
Caller: “Is she breathing? Barely.”
Bayless had collapsed in the dining room of Glenwood Gardens, which is an independent living home in Bakersfield, Calif.
Dispatcher: “Is there anybody that works there that is willing to do it?”
Caller: “We can’t do that.”
Dispatcher: “Are we going to wait? We’re just going to let this lady die?”
Glenwood, operated by Brookdale Senior Living, has a company policy preventing staff from intervening in a medical emergency.
“To find a corporate policy that says, ‘we’re gonna give you your health care until this gets real bad and then don’t look to us;’ that’s disturbing,” says Jon Perry, a medical malpractice attorney.
Brookdale Senior Living, based in Milwaukee, Wis., has more than 640 facilities. Three of them are in our area.
They are The Devonshire of Mount Lebanon, Sterling House in Penn Hills and Clare Bridge in Murrysville.
Her daughter was quoted as saying: “We understood the polcy, and I agree with what was done.”
Dr. Robert Arnold, a medical ethicist and palliative care specialist at UPMC says, “People are then confused about why they weren’t helping this poor lady? It sounds as if this poor lady wouldn’t have viewed CPR as helping her.”
Using a football analogy, Dr. Arnold believes that it’s critical that people in the fourth quarter of their lives make their wishes clear about their game plan.
“Because otherwise, when you’re anxious or excited in the last two minutes, the two-minute warning often goes badly,” said Dr. Arnold.
Attorney Perry also makes clear what the Good Samaritan Law does and doesn’t do.
“[It] says that if you act to help someone in a state of emergency, you will basically get immunity from lawsuits,” Perry says.
But the law cannot force you to help. That applies to doctors and nurses, too. Although, they might have ethical problems.
“It’s shocking,” says Perry. “Most people don’t realize there is no requirement that you render assistance to anybody.”
All of Brookdale’s facilities in the Pittsburgh area referred KDKA’s questions to corporate headquarters. We got no response.