Professor Michael Green weighs in on negligent CPR policies that result in death

WINSTON-SALEM — An elderly woman at a California independent living facility died after she collapsed and a nurse refused to perform CPR. The facility said they were following their procedures to wait for EMS. 

News 14 Carolina has obtained the 911 call from that incident.
Dispatcher: “This woman is not breathing enough. She’s gonna die if we don’t get this started. Do you understand?”
Nurse: “I understand. I am a nurse, but I can not have our other senior citizens, who don’t know CPR…”
Dispatcher: “I will instruct them.”
Dispatcher: “Is there anybody there that’s willing to help this lady and not let her die?”
Nurse: “Um, not at this time.”
The elderly woman did not survive.
And now many are wondering why more wasn’t done and what kind of care our senior citizens receive at these kinds of facilities. It turns out there is a big difference in the level of care.
Independent living centers, like the one where this woman died, are not federally regulated.
“Mainly being a place for people to come and perhaps tap activities, help with laundry, dining services more general needs,” Peggy Smith, executive director for the N.C. Assisted Living Association said. “Assisted living, we are regulated. At least one person on staff would be CPR certified.”
Smith said it is common for independent living centers to stick to their protocol and call 911. But should this nurse have administered CPR at the request of the 911 dispatcher, even though it went against her company policy?
Michael Green, a law professor at Wake Forest University, said yes, citing the Good Samaritan law.
“If you do intervene and try to help, you will not be legally liable for any harm that you cause in the rescue effort,” Green said.
He said this law applies to anyone, but the extent of the liability can vary by state. Still, he hopes others won’t shy away from offering help.
“Don’t not help because you’re worried about liability,” Green said. “That’s really not a concern.”
Green added that some states have laws in place that impose a reasonable obligation to assist with rescue. That means there could be legal consequences if that need is ignored.

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