Lorraine Bayless death: Inquiry after nurse refuses CPR

BY: Sebastian Syme

Police in California have begun an inquiry into the death of an elderly woman after a nurse at her senior community refused to administer CPR.

The nurse also disregarded an emergency dispatcher's plea to find "anybody that's willing to help this lady and not let her die" before medics arrived.

She said staff members were not allowed to administer CPR.

The executive director of Glenwood Gardens in Bakersfield defended the nurse, saying she had followed 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," Jeffrey Toomer said in a written statement.

Bakersfield police said they were opening the inquiry to determine whether there was criminal wrongdoing in the case, but would not comment further on the investigation.

An unidentified woman reportedly called an emergency line after Lorraine Bayless, 87, collapsed inside a dining room and appeared barely to be breathing. A nurse at Glenwood Gardens then got on the phone to say she could not perform CPR.

In a tape of the call, dispatcher Tracey Halvorson can be heard saying: "I understand if your boss is telling you, you can't do it but... as a human being... is there anybody that's willing to help this lady and not let her die?"

"Not at this time," the nurse replies.

The dispatcher suggests the nurse find another staff member - a gardener perhaps - or a passing stranger to help.

Kern County Fire Department Deputy Chief Michael Miller said Ms Halvorson followed procedures during the call.

"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,'' Mr 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."

The elderly woman had no pulse and was not breathing when fire crews reached her, Battalion Chief Anthony Galagaza said.

Bayless was later pronounced dead at Mercy Southwest Hospital. Local broadcaster KGET reports her daughter was satisfied with how Glenwood handled the situation.