The nurse who refused to perform CPR on an 87-year-old woman at a California independent living facility did so out of fear of being sued.
In the Portland metro area, 911 dispatchers say people opt not to perform CPR more often than you would think.
Thanks to the state’s good Samaritan law, however, you can’t be sued for trying to save someone’s life as long as you follow medical procedures.
Holly Burback, a Clackamas County dispatcher for 22 years, said she has dealt with people refusing to give CPR for various reasons.
“A woman called and said her husband was unconscious, not breathing. It hadn’t been that long,” Burback said. “I asked her if she was willing to do CPR. She said no. He was adamant about me not doing anything for him.”
It used to be more common that people refused performing CPR when mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was involved.
“A lot of people (were) uneasy doing mouth-to-mouth with a stranger,” said Mark Spross, Clackamas County 911 communications manager. “Very rare, but we have had instances where someone refused CPR.”
Burback said in those situations, they keep asking the callers, “Are you sure you don’t want to help? I can help you through it.” Sometimes those folks change their minds.
Officials say when it comes to facilities with policies in place, dispatchers will tell callers to follow their company’s procedures. And that won’t stop dispatchers from trying to find someone else to help until paramedics arrive.
California state officials did not know Monday whether the woman who talked to the 911 dispatcher actually was a nurse, or just identified herself as one during the call. She said one of the home's policies prevented her from doing CPR, according to an audio recording of the call.
"The consensus is if they are a nurse and if they are at work as a nurse, then they should be offering the appropriate medical care," said Russ Heimerich, spokesman for the California Board of Registered Nursing, the agency that licenses health care providers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This version corrects the facility in California was an independent living facility, not an assisted living facility.