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Nursing Home Defends Nurse Who Refused to Give CPR to Dying Retiree

Update Date: Mar 04, 2013 11:24 AM EST

In a heart-breaking 911 call, Bakersfield fire dispatcher Tracey Halvorson said, "It's a human being. Is there anybody that's willing to help this lady and not let her die?"

The caller paused a moment. "Um, not at this time," she replied.

According to the Los Angeles Times, 87-year-old Lorraine Bayless lived at a senior living facility in Bakersfield, California. While eating in the facility's dining room, she passed out. When employees at the Glenwood Gardens facility called 911, she was barely breathing but did not have a do-not-resuscitate order.

While ambulances were on their way to the facility, the dispatcher pleaded with a nurse to administer CPR to Ms. Bayless. However, the nurse responded that she could not, saying that it was against company policy for staff to do so. When the dispatcher asked if she could ask a resident or passersby to perform the procedure, the nurse can be heard on the tape saying that she refused to make that call.

Ms. Bayless died at Mercy Southwest Hospital.

Indeed, Jeffrey Toomer, the executive director of Glenwood Gardens, issued his condolences to Ms. Bayless's family. However, he defended her, saying that the nurse did indeed follow company 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," he said to the Los Angeles Times. "That is the protocol we followed. As with any incident involving a resident, we will conduct a thorough internal review of this matter, but we have no further comments at this time."

The Bakersfield Fire Battalian said that Halvorson also followed protocol, as CPR dispatchers ask callers to administer CPR all the time.

Legally, it appears that there is very little that the family of Ms. Bayless can do. Residents agree to the policy when they move into the facility, KNTV reports. Because it is an independent living facility and not an assisted living community, that is a policy that the company can make.

In fact, the family says that they were very happy with Ms. Bayless's care.

However, some experts hope that the tragedy can serve as a wake-up call to the industry.

 "I think this tragic example will make us all think more closely about what type of services and training we should provide," Maribeth Bersani, from the Assisted Living Federation of America, said to CBS News.

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