Woman Dies After Nurse Refuses To Do CPR

A caregiver’s refusal to give CPR to a dying 87-year-old woman at an independent living home in California has produced cries of outrage from across the globe and prompted a criminal investigation.

Her 911 call, which lasted over  seven minutes, has raised concerns that strict policies at senior living facilities could be life-threatening by preventing staff from intervening in medical emergencies.

On February 26, at the facility known as Glenwood Gardens in Bakersfield, a woman, possibly a nurse, called 911 to ask for paramedics to come and help an elderly female who had collapsed and was barely breathing.

Here’s how the call proceeded, according to The Associated Press, after dispatcher Tracey Halvorson urged the nurse to start CPR.

“I understand if your boss is telling you you can’t do it,” the dispatcher said. “But … as a human being … you know . is there anybody that’s willing to help this lady and not let her die?”

“Not at this time,” the nurse answered.

During the 7-minute, 16-second call, Halvorson assured the nurse that Glenwood couldn’t be sued if anything went wrong with CPR, saying the local emergency medical system “takes the liability for this call,” the transcript states.

Later in the call, Halvorson asks, “Is there a gardener? Any staff . anyone who doesn’t work for you? Anywhere? Can we flag someone down in the street and get them to help this lady? Can we flag a stranger down? I bet a stranger would help her.”

Halvorson is an experienced dispatcher and has worked for the county center for at least a decade, Kern County Fire Department Deputy Chief Michael Miller said.

How can anyone just watch another human being who is barely breathing, and clearly dying, and not do anything? Even if you don’t really know what to do, wouldn’t you want to do something? Or run to find someone who could do something?

Paramedics arrived minutes after the call came in, but it was too late. Lorraine Bayless had collapsed in the dining room of the independent living facility section of the retirement home, and by the time medical personnel got there, she had no pulse and wasn’t breathing.

Since Bayless did not have a do-not-resuscitate order on file, firefighters immediately began CPR, continuing until she reached the hospital. The elderly woman was later declared dead.

Following Protocol Not To CPR?

Jeffrey Toomer, the executive director of Glenwood Gardens, had this to say:

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…That is the protocol we followed.

Then he generously offered condolences to the woman’s family.

So independent living facilities, unlike nursing homes, generally do not offer medical care. They are apartments for seniors, and may have some services  provided by nursing staff, but those staff are not medically responsible for the occupants.

But what does that have to do with refusing to offer help when an elderly woman is dying? This is not about rules and regulations; it’s about respect (or lack of respect) for human life.

Outrage At Such Horrifying Treatment

From Yahoo:

“This is a wakeup call,” said Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, chair of the California Assembly Aging and Long-term Care Committee. “I’m sorry it took a tragedy like this to bring it to our attention.”

Yamada cautioned that while it’s not yet known whether intervention would have saved the woman’s life, “we want to investigate because it has caused a lot of concern and alarm.”

Independent living facilities “should not have a policy that says you can stand there and watch somebody die,” said Pat McGinnis, founder of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, a consumer advocacy group. “How a nurse can do that is beyond comprehension.”

Others agree.

In Cape Cod, the executive director of  a senior community that offers individual apartments with a central dining room and other services was surprised to read of the circumstances of Bayless’s death. Dorcas McGurrin’s facility is not licensed to perform medical procedures, but he can’t imagine not rushing to help a woman in need of CPR.

Indeed, if the 911 operator tells you to start CPR immediately in order to save a person’s life, wouldn’t you do that? As a teacher, I am required to be trained in CPR; I have never had to use it, but hope I would not hesitate if I was called on.

Bayless’s death has also prompted at least one central Pennsylvania retirement community to make assurances it wouldn’t happen there. Country Meadows Retirement Community in Derry Township has distributed a letter outlining its policies, and expressing disappointment that situations like this do a disservice to the numerous caregivers who would have responded differently.

Would you let this happen? What’s the price of a life?


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Photo Credit: thinkstock


Joie J. Lech

Probably a nurse?

Henry W.
Henry W.5 years ago

There are some specious and deceptive arguments raised, defending the indefensible nurse. To be clear the victim did not have a DNR in place." Bayless did not have such an order on file at the facility, said Battalion Chief Anthony Galagaza of the Bakersfield Fire Department, which was the first on the scene. That's when firefighters immediately began CPR, continuing until she reached the hospital."


The cruel, hard-hearted nurse not only lied about no-one else being available to administer CPR. She even refused to accept the offer of local emergency medical system to take liability for any potential lawsuit.

She should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law including the executive director of Glenwood Gardens, Jeffrey Toomer. It is from small beginnings like this that gross atrocities are perpetrated in the guise of obedience to policy. (e.g. Hitler, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, etc)

Mary B.
Mary B5 years ago

Sorry, my last post 9:11, 14/ 3/ 2013 should have been addressed to Bill C....My apologies if anyone thought it was for them.

Renee P.
Renee Parry5 years ago

I personally would not work for a company that would tie my hands during an emergency as to not performing CPR.

Jennifer U.
Jennifer A5 years ago

It should be illegal to sue someone for giving you CPR/saving your life. Especially if you can't let the other person know that you don't want to be resuscitated. I think they should make it that unless you have a DNR bracelet, you can't sue someone for saving your life.

I don't understand how our medical system got so messed up. I remember reading a story about a homeless guy who tried to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge onto a freeway. He somehow survived but broke most of the bones in his body. The hospital took him in, helped him (on taxpayer dollars cause he couldn't pay for it) and then when he got out he managed to successfully kill himself.

I understand the need to try to help someone but in that instance simply asking the guy if he wanted help would have saved a lot of money and trouble of trying to save that guy when he had no intention of living.

Mary B.
Mary B5 years ago

Bill R......considering some of your less than stellar posts on just about anything, I guess your view from the cheap seats is blocked......I encouraged men to go into nursing because I would see an kindness and gentle spirit particularly in pediatrics.....The two of you are the two most self absorbed men I have ever seen post on Care 2.....it's not just this topic, it's gun rights, animal experimentation, human rights issues and on and on......I have asked myself about this topic and MY reasons for continuing on with your very childish responses and complete lack of professional courtesy and I stand by my desire to know why an American system can be so different from a Canadian model.......Bill, you use your "disability" to mask all sorts of things and Del is just arrogant.....Both of you have difficulty with maybe a woman questioning you...."Chip on my shoulder" Bill?......maybe I do because I know MY standards and I am able to think outside the box......you should try and see things from someone else's point of view for a change.

Pamela W.
Pamela W5 years ago

Oh how America must be proud of these 2 supposedly "caring" American male nurses bullying a Canadian female (and anyone who agrees with her) for days on end !!!!! (tongue firmly in cheek !). Why don't you go and do something worthwhile, guys, like signing a few petitions or something for a change ?????

Bill C.
Bill C5 years ago

Mary the chip on your shoulder is so huge it blovks your view.

Read some of what you have posted, this is not about you nor "nursing", it is 100% about the right to die and this lady had said right and she chose a facility for reasons no one outside her and her family and the facility has any right to know.

She was 87, made her own choices till her death

we should all be so lucky

Mary B.
Mary B5 years ago

Del R.....Ever more you have to be right......Just to clarfy to you, as you seem fairly obtuse, obviously I wasn't asking about that particular incident because, as you said, we weren't there......as I have stated many times and even you should be able to get this......I was trying to understand the differences between our system and yours.....your critical thinking skills seem to be on hiatus......try not to be so defensive.

Del Rykert
Del Rykert5 years ago

....cont.. in the States...

Del R. FOREVER a Patients advocate...