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Filler: A nurse refusing CPR to an elderly woman? How callous

We need to help others when they need

We need to help others when they need it, and if we can. In California last week that didn’t happen, and an 87-year-old woman died, possibly unnecessarily. (Credit: Tribune Media Services / Paul Tong)

We are, before anything else, human beings.

That comes before our status as employees of a company, or members of a profession, or part of any kind of group. We are, first and foremost, human beings, members of society, part of a community.

And we need to help others when they need it, and if we can.


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In California last week that didn’t happen, and an 87-year-old woman died, possibly unnecessarily.

Police dispatchers fielded a call from Glenwood Gardens, an independent-living facility, saying a woman had collapsed in the dining room, on Feb. 26. The call had been placed by a nurse at Glenwood Gardens, who asked that paramedics be dispatched to help the woman.

After emergency services had been dispatched via the fire department, the call was sent to dispatcher Tracey Halvorson, who tried to talk the nurse into starting CPR.

The nurse wouldn’t do it because, she said, company policy forbade it. Nor would she pass the phone to any other person in the room who might be willing, walked through the process by Halvorson, to give it a try, no matter how much Halvorson pleaded.

California has a Good Samaritan law that says: “No licensee, who in good faith renders emergency care at the scene of an emergency, shall be liable for any civil damages as a result of any acts or omissions by such person in rendering the emergency care.”

That’s to keep doctors and nurses from refusing to render aid, as happened in this case.

But it does not have a “duty to rescue” law that would have required others to help this woman as she lay suffering. Most places in the United States don’t.

So when Halvorson said, “It’s a human being. Is there anybody that’s willing to help the lady and not let her die?” the nurse responded “Um…not at this time.”

The nurse should have helped, and she should have been willing to do so even at the risk of losing her job. Everyone else there should have been willing to help too. To be fair, they might have been, had the nurse given them the chance.

We are human beings first, and nothing excuses us from our duty to help those in immediate need. That this even needs to be stated suggests something terrible, an intolerable form of callousness and selfishness, has taken hold in our society that needs to be stamped out wherever it appears.  

Tags: nurse , 911 , glenwood gardens , tracey halvorson , cpr , good samaritan

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