Nursing home abuse and neglect is a major problem throughout the Carolinas and throughout the United States. One recent tragic case making headlines, however, is an egregious example of a retirement community that failed to provide even the most basic of assistance to a dying 87-year-old resident. The incident occurred when a nurse refused to provide CPR to a woman in an independent living community, resulting in the woman's death.
Our Charlotte injury attorneys believe that this tragic incident should be a wake up call to every single person entering a nursing home or admitting a parent or relative to an assisted or independent living community. The nurse and facility argue that they followed protocol as outlined in the nursing home contract. While it remains to be seen whether any action will be taken in civil or criminal court as a result of the events, this tragic incident is a key reminder that you must always read and understand your contract before entering into a retirement or elder living environment. Further, it is also a key reminder that you need to choose your living environment very carefully.
Nurse Refuses to Provide CPR To Patient
An article in USA Today published on March 4, 2013, relayed information about the incident in the independent living home that has been making nationwide headlines. According to the USA Today article, a nurse called 911 when an 87-year-old resident was in distress. The Dispatcher begged the nurse to perform CPR on the dying woman and asked whether there was anyone in the facility that was willing to help the woman and not let her die.
In response to the question, the nurse said "Um, not at this time." The dispatcher reminded the nurse that "it's a human being," but to no avail. On a tape of the call, the nurse could be heard telling someone else that the dispatcher was yelling at her and that she was not going to make the call on whether to perform CPR or not. Yet, no one came to the aid of the dying woman and the 87-year-old was declared dead at the hospital later that day.
While there has been a widespread public outcry as the tape was played on media stations and made national news, USA Today reported that the executive director of the assisted living facility defended the actions of the nurse because the nurse had followed policy.
The policy specified that emergency personnel would be called in during an emergency and that someone would wait with the patient in distress until help came. The independent living community had a contract in place that outlined the policy, and the director said that residents were informed of the no CPR rule when they moved in. At the adjacent assisted living and skilled nursing facilities, no such policy was in place.
USA Today reports that an investigation is underway by local police, as well as an internal investigation of the nursing home. According to their article, the daughter of the woman who died said she was not dissatisfied with the handling of the case since there was a do not resuscitate order on file. However, if the surviving family members had been displeased, then they might have been able to file a claim for nursing home neglect.
Of course, the existence of the contract and policy might have absolved the nurse and assisted living facility of the obligation to render aid, especially since there is no general duty to provide assistance to others under the law. However, a solid argument could also be made that it was grossly negligent to stand by and watch someone die who was under the care of the facility when simply performing CPR might have saved a life.
Without a lawsuit, the impact of the contract on liability for negligence in the death is something that an only be speculated about. It is clear, however, that this incident should serve as a very important reminder to ALWAYS check your nursing home or assisted living community paperwork before moving in so you know what your guaranteed rights are.... and aren't.