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Home > Topics > Communications / Dispatch

Police investigating death of woman denied CPR

Facility defended its nurse, saying she had followed policy in dealing with the 87-year-old woman

The Associated Press

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Police in Bakersfield are investigating whether there was any criminal wrongdoing in an independent living facility's handling of a resident's death after a nurse refused to perform CPR on the woman.

Bakersfield Police Department spokeswoman Michaela Beard said Monday a police dispatcher first fielded the call from the facility last week saying that a woman had collapsed in the dining room. Police immediately routed it to the fire department for emergency services, Beard said. But when a second dispatcher pleaded with a nurse at the facility to perform CPR on the resident, she refused.

Beard said the department is looking into the incident. She said she can't provide any additional information because the investigation is ongoing.

The facility, Glenwood Gardens, defended its nurse, saying she had followed policy in dealing with the 87-year-old woman.

At the beginning of the Feb. 26 call, the nurse asked for paramedics to come and help the woman who had collapsed and was barely breathing, according to a transcript of the call.

Dispatcher Tracey Halvorson urged the nurse to start CPR.

"I understand if your boss is telling you, you can't do it," the dispatcher said. "But ... as a human being ... you know, is there anybody that's willing to help this lady and not let her die?"

"Not at this time," the nurse answered.

During the 7-minute, 16-second call, Halvorson assured the nurse that Glenwood couldn't be sued if anything went wrong with CPR, saying the local emergency medical system "takes the liability for this call," the transcript states.

Later in the call, Halvorson asks, "Is there a gardener? Any staff, anyone who doesn't work for you? Anywhere? Can we flag someone down in the street and get them to help this lady? Can we flag a stranger down? I bet a stranger would help her."

Halvorson is an experienced dispatcher and has worked for the county center for at least a decade, Kern County Fire Department Deputy Chief Michael Miller said.

She followed procedures until she ran out of options when the caller refused to perform CPR or identify anyone else who could, Miller said.

"It's not uncommon to have someone refuse to provide CPR if they physically can't do it, or they're so upset they just can't function," Miller said. "What made this one unique was the way the conversation on the phone went, it was just very frustrating to anyone listening to it, like, why wasn't anyone helping this poor woman, since CPR today is much simpler than it was in the past?"

Firefighters and ambulance personnel arrived at the facility seven minutes after the call came in, Miller said. The county does not know who made the call, he said.

The woman had no pulse and wasn't breathing when fire crews found her lying on the floor, Bakersfield Fire Department spokesman Anthony Galagaza added.

They started CPR and loaded her onto a gurney. The woman was later declared dead at Mercy Southwest Hospital.

The executive director of Glenwood Gardens, Jeffrey Toomer, defended the nurse, saying she did indeed follow policy.

"In the event of a health emergency at this independent living community our practice is to immediately call emergency medical personnel for assistance and to wait with the individual needing attention until such personnel arrives," Toomer said in a written statement. "That is the protocol we followed."

Toomer offered condolences to the woman's family and said a thorough internal review of the incident would be conducted.

He told KGET-TV that residents of the facility are informed of the policy and agree to it when they move in. He said the policy does not apply at the adjacent assisted living and skilled nursing facilities.

A call to the facility by The Associated Press seeking more information was not immediately returned.

Associated PressCopyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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Gene Melvin Gene Melvin Monday, March 04, 2013 7:57:30 PM Unless there was a DNR, it is dispicable that no one attempted CPR. Chest compressions, even without ventilations, would have been preferred over NOTHING. I could not live with myself knowing I did NOTHING while someone I was there to take care of had died.
Maggie Murphy Maggie Murphy Monday, March 04, 2013 7:58:24 PM WTF they let this women die.. they should be ashamed of themselves if it was me I woulda started cpr they coulda fired my a$ afterwards atleast she might still be alive, my prayers n condolences to her familty.
Randall Bartnick Randall Bartnick Monday, March 04, 2013 8:01:46 PM I guess that nurse doesn't know the "Nursing Code of Ethics"
Tony Cook Tony Cook Monday, March 04, 2013 8:05:00 PM Well, it may be the policy of the facility to not perform any emergency care, but I'd like to see what the state department of nursing will have to say on this incident. As an employee on duty she did have a duty to act. I doubt they will defend this nurse!
Amy Rohmiller Amy Rohmiller Monday, March 04, 2013 8:05:05 PM The woman actually identified herself as a "nurse", and was speaking to other staff about how the dispatcher was yelling at her. She was indignant about being told she should do something.... Unfortunately these types of "nurses" are what give that profession a bad name.
Michael Nobles Michael Nobles Monday, March 04, 2013 8:05:24 PM Gene, I was watching FOX NEWS this morning and this story aired with the phone conversation and you could hear the so-called nurse telling someone in the background that "she's like yelling at me"! Made me sick!
Jody McKibben Jody McKibben Monday, March 04, 2013 8:17:05 PM I understand that they have a policy, but it definitely needs reviewed and corrected.. If a patient is having breathing difficulty, a diabetic emergency etc..then staying with the patient is good enough but they should NOT just stand by when they witness a cardiac arrest.. there is no standing by for that.. Shame on any health care professional that would do such a thing! That has got to be the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard..
Ryan Jackson Ryan Jackson Monday, March 04, 2013 8:17:55 PM that is sick, how can you have all the tools to help and stand by like that.
JoAnn Griesenauer JoAnn Griesenauer Monday, March 04, 2013 8:38:35 PM This is common policy I do not agree with. My EMT partner use to work part time at a nursing facility, he was a CPR instructor as well. He was unable to do CPR on the nursing home patients even though he taught it and was a street experience EMT. I was shocked to hear this policy. We also worked calls the nursing home would insist we work a patient that was obviously deceased instead of calling the coroner because it made their statistics look bad if we didn't move them into our ambulance. People should be well informed, my father went into rehab at a "skilled" center. I went back the next morning and yanked him out because they laid him flat with his CHF and his parkinson's and post op kept him out of reach for help button. They also only check blood glucose levels for diabetics twice a week. Be informed!
Diane Frisch Diane Frisch Monday, March 04, 2013 8:40:35 PM Hi Jody I'm not familiar with what happened. Or the circumstances that led up to it. But if the lady was DNR and someone else saw what was going on and intervened. The caregiver was in their right to obey the patients wishes. I need to read about this and see what the heck really happened before I can really make a comment. The other thing is it was an independent living facility. Very minimal staffing and probably has no medical training. Although I think everyone knowsw hands only CPR these days.
Diane Frisch Diane Frisch Monday, March 04, 2013 8:41:00 PM Very sad anyway you look at it~
Moe Altazan Moe Altazan Monday, March 04, 2013 8:42:40 PM This is such a bizarre case! Families are not fully informed as to what these places can and can't do. Also, no one is talking about if the patient had a DNR, living will, etc.
Lisa Robinson Lisa Robinson Monday, March 04, 2013 8:47:19 PM Her actions are morally incomprehensible. Would she want someone to do that to her loved ones. Not to mention how much people pay to live in those facilities. So very sad.
Sheila Reynolds Gibbins Sheila Reynolds Gibbins Monday, March 04, 2013 9:19:06 PM This makes me sick! Families are not informed!! And I feel terrible for the poor dispatcher. Not a thing she could do!
Larry Wells Larry Wells Monday, March 04, 2013 9:22:07 PM Actually, her daughter stated that she was quite happy with the care that was rendered by the assisted living facility. No mention of DNR in the first story. So does that mean that if the family is OK with the results, then no charges will be leveled by the family? Sounds kinda cold hearted on the daughter's feelings.
JoAnn Griesenauer JoAnn Griesenauer Monday, March 04, 2013 9:37:20 PM I am interested on every state dept. of health level if there was a duty to act. This poses a lot of moral and legal questions. My thesis was on DNRs, so it is a timely subject to follow. I am guessing the pt and family has a DNR on file but it is such a gray area. The part that got me was EMS arrived 7 minutes later and the woman died later that day.
Carole Chiang Carole Chiang Monday, March 04, 2013 9:46:08 PM It was on the other news earlier that the patient did not have DNR. It is disgusting humanity, watching a person die in front of you knowing if you've done something would give the person another chance, but still chose not to and at the same time identify yourself as a nurse which brings shame to all other EMS, and at the same time complaining about the dispatcher "yelling" at her to beg her try to be as a human being and do something with it, like find another person who does not need to follow that policy. what else is there to defend herself?
Joey Athena Hucks Joey Athena Hucks Monday, March 04, 2013 9:59:46 PM Gene I second that!!
Renee Eagle Nickel Renee Eagle Nickel Monday, March 04, 2013 10:50:40 PM As a nurse with what facts I have been presented with it does appear that the patient had a DNR (a no CPR order) this is her right and her wishes to have this order in place at her age. She has the right to die with some dignity not full of tubes in a code in an ER then how long laying in an ICU full of tubes til the end. She made her decision to go quietly when it was her time, as a nurse and a sister and daughter who have lost all my family to cancer not in hospitals full of tubes but when their time came I had to let them all go, with their dignity. Patients have a bill of rights and as healthcare providers we MUST put them first. You ask she doesn't know the nursing code of ethics, perhaps you should read ALL medical code of ethics and show me where we began going against our patients wishes. Do we operate now whether they give consent or not but because we think its best?? Do we give blood knowing its against a religion because we think its best. Come on people stop trying to lay blame on someone for everything, she lived a long life and it had come to a natural end as she wanted. The nurse didn't do anything to cause her death she only let her go naturally as was the woman's wishes. If she were in the hospital with a DNR order it would have happened exactly the same way, naturally. So get off your medical high horses and quit slinging dirt at a nurse doing her job.
Debbie Greener Debbie Greener Tuesday, March 05, 2013 12:31:51 AM I think that this is a rediculous policy to have in place. If you are caring for someone, in whatever capacity, you should have even basic first aid skills, which includes CPR. I would never be able to live with myself if it were me. I hope she will be able to.
Penny Cash-Skaife Penny Cash-Skaife Tuesday, March 05, 2013 12:52:57 AM Diane first off the patient was NOT a DNR. And the lady identified herself as a nurse to the 911 dispatcher. She refused to do CPR and refused to ask any other person who might have been willing to do it as well. Nor would she send anyone out to see if there was a passerby or visitor who would be willing. This is a clear violation of her code of ethics despite what the facility's protocols were. She just stood there and watched this patient die when, as a nurse, she has to have had training in CPR. No excuse for this lack of care for the patient. I hope the licensing board takes her license to practice away and shuts the facility down for refusing to care for their patients .
Jody McKibben Jody McKibben Tuesday, March 05, 2013 3:08:03 AM The DNR question I can understand but from what I gather there probably wasn't one. But if the lady had a DNR and if they checked for pulses prior to contacting 911 and there was no pulse, then 911 should never had been called. The nursing staff absolutely refused to go and get someone anyone that could do CPR, if this lady had a DNR then the nurse should have known that and then other steps should have been followed. It is very sad especially looking at some of the other posts. She accused the dispatchers of "yelling at me" well yes the dispatcher was frustrated knowing that a woman was dying and no one would do anything about it.. I sure as heck would be too..
Theodore Wiley Theodore Wiley Tuesday, March 05, 2013 4:07:13 AM I feel that she should lose her job she cant even think that shes a nurse a real nurse would of not let that happen I'm with ycfd and my sister is a nurse she has had to do cpr on people.
Lars Olsen Lars Olsen Tuesday, March 05, 2013 4:28:22 AM She's 87. Letting her go is a lot more respectful than assaulting her body. CPR is a brutal act and nothing at all what it appears on TV. If more people saw what it's like, and understood the futility of it, more people would get a DNR.
William O'Sick William O'Sick Tuesday, March 05, 2013 4:59:54 AM Is the policy in place because the residents are paying for an independent living facility and not a more expensive assisted living accommodation? It would be despicable if this was over money. A policy saying that they are not required to provide enough nurses for all residents wouldn't matter if one happened to be there.
Stanley Prawdzik Stanley Prawdzik Tuesday, March 05, 2013 5:27:35 AM Protocol or not........ it is in human to watch someone die when you have the training to help!!!!!!!!!!
Reva Jones Reva Jones Tuesday, March 05, 2013 8:30:46 AM Gene I agree totally with you
James Macklin James Macklin Tuesday, March 05, 2013 9:28:56 AM Is there not a "duty to act" rule of Nurses licensed in that state! It would seem that since nurses are trained in CPR, that as a part of their oath and as a requirement of their licenses, that they act on their training to save a persons life.
Lori Evancho McIrvin Engberg Lori Evancho McIrvin Engberg Tuesday, March 05, 2013 10:27:19 AM Poor woman would have been better off collapsing in a McDonlds or Walmart. At least there would likely be willing first responders and an AED available. Calling EMS, fine, but when someone is clearly in need of CPR, DO SOMETHING! Esp if identifiying yourself as a nurse. A LICENSED nurse has a duty to act. Unless someone shoved a out of hospital DNR form in my face, I would have started compressions. Unlikely that I'd save the patient, but at least I can live with myself knowing I tried. I just hope this wasn't a RN who made the call...
Saul 'n' Tracie Gonzalez Saul 'n' Tracie Gonzalez Tuesday, March 05, 2013 10:33:20 AM As a licensed RN watching this, this is seriously the oddest 911 call from a "supposed nurse" I think I've ever heard. WTH?? I have never heard of such a protocol with the absence of a DNR. Very strange.
Lori Evancho McIrvin Engberg Lori Evancho McIrvin Engberg Tuesday, March 05, 2013 10:48:35 AM The nursing staff would KNOW how to do CPR, not need to find someone. Wish someone would clarify what kind of nurse this is. My guess, unlicensed aide with little training.
Darren Fraser Darren Fraser Tuesday, March 05, 2013 10:50:24 AM No where in any article or the recording of the call does it indicate that the Patient has a dnr it does however state ens started cpr which would indicate that either the dnr did not exist or was not provided to them. So if the dnr did not exist this so called nurse should not just go to jail she should be placed under it.
Michael B. Prescott Michael B. Prescott Tuesday, March 05, 2013 3:31:28 PM Unbelievable.
Sherri Hudson Sherri Hudson Tuesday, March 05, 2013 5:34:31 PM How can anyone stand by and not help. Morals are more important than jobs
Diane Annas-Calkins Diane Annas-Calkins Saturday, March 09, 2013 12:12:02 AM I cannot believe that a NURSE would refuse active CPR on a dying patient. She has a CODE OF ETHICS and a moral obligation to assist regardless of "policy". And if a DNR was not effected, I believe in this State - she can be held liable. How can a policy be created like this...HOW? If the facility is providing medical based care (which I assume they are because they have nurses on staff), then CPR is part of that medical care unless documented by the patient to not perform. Wonder how many others this woman has killed...hmmmm, now there's something to look into.

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