Bakersfield woman dies after nurse refuses to do CPR

FRESNO, Calif.

The story has people across the country talking, and raising questions. Here locally, a lot of people are calling those facilities, asking about policies, laws, and ethics, and providers are reviewing their emergency procedures.

In the 911 tape, a desperate dispatcher pleads with a woman over the phone. Saying, "As a human being, I don't… you know- is there's anybody that is willing to help this lady and not let her die?" 87-year-old Lorraine Bayless had collapsed and was barely breathing.

The woman told the dispatcher she's a nurse. "I understand, I am a nurse, but I cannot have our other senior citizens who don't know CPR." The dispatcher offered to instruct them over the phone.

Bayless later died at the hospital. The story made headlines, and was particularly disturbing for 85-year-old Winnie Henry, who lives at the Fairwinds Retirement Community in Fresno. She tells Action News, "Somebody do something, don't just stand there, respond!"

The management at Fairwinds got so many questions, they decided to hold a staff and resident meeting to talk about what happened in Bakersfield. They'll be reviewing policies and procedures to "ensure resident safety."

General Manager Clint Fowler says the entire staff at the facility is trained in CPR. "Unless there's special circumstances, a hospice or advanced directive, DNR, then we would forgo, but obviously in a community setting we would preserve and prolong life until EMT's arrive."

State law does not mandate CPR training or administration in independent living communities, like the one in Bakersfield.

Sally Michael, the California Assisted Living Association President tells Action News, "Independent living residences are apartment settings, not care facilities and they do not provide health-related services. Rather, this model is specifically designed for seniors who do not need the specialized supportive services of Assisted Living or the medical care of a skilled nursing facility."

But for Jessica McCune, who is a CPR instructor, it's not laws or state mandates, it's ethics. "There's a difference between policy and procedure and what's ethical. I'd be willing to break policy and procedure -- I'd rather be in trouble doing what's right."

Bakersfield Police are investigating whether there was any criminal wrongdoing.

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