A chilling 911 call out of Bakersfield, California is making the rounds of the Internet today, and it's not good news for the nurse on one end of the call. If what we're hearing is everything that happened, the nurse at a nursing home outright refuses to perform CPR on a dying woman even as the 911 dispatcher begs her to do the right thing. To make the sad case even more confusing: the nurse had actually called 911 to get help for the woman!
By the time medics arrived, it was too late. Eighty-seven-year-old Lorraine Bayless died. Which leaves America wondering today: what should happen to this nurse? Should she be punished for letting someone die on her watch?
It's a tough call. We know that the 87-year-old did NOT have a do not resuscitate, but we don't know if CPR would have saved her life.
We do know that we expect our medical professionals to try life-saving measures when help is needed. Trying can make all the difference.
But that didn't happen here, at least not from what we can hear on the tape. On the unsettling 911 call, the nurse repeatedly tells the impassioned dispatcher, "we can't do that" when she's pushed to perform CPR or find someone who can, even if it was someone who wasn't employed there.
Sounds like she might have been following orders, and according to a release obtained by CBS from the Glenwood Gardens Retirement Facility, the incident is being investigated. The facility's practice "is to immediately call emergency medical personnel for assistance and to wait with the individual needing attention until such personnel arrives."
So it's possible the nurse was just following orders. But does that matter? When someone's life is on the line, do orders from your boss to stand by and watch supersede the moral imperative to act? Should it even be legal for a company to create such a rule?
A part of me can't help but feel for this nurse: she may well have felt that her job, her livelihood was on the line. In this economy, that's terrifying.
Then again, a job is a job. Can we really compare that to a life? I don't think I could. I certainly don't think I could live with myself after putting the one ahead of the other.
This woman is a nurse, she chose a job where she faces life and death, and she knew walking in that people were putting her loved ones' lives in her hands. Maybe there's no illegality here, but there's certainly a moral wrong that's been done.
Where do you draw the line? Should this woman suffer some sort of punishment for her inaction? Listen to the call:
Image via NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr