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MCCULLOUGH: Do unto others, unless it'll get us sued

Nate McCullough

Nate McCullough

I would've tried to save her. I would've gotten fired and maybe sued, but I would've tried anyway.

The "her" I'm referring to is 87-year-old Lorraine Bayless, the woman who passed away in a Bakersfield, Calif., retirement home after employees refused to give her CPR -- or even pass the phone to someone who was willing at the request of a 911 operator -- because of company policy.

At first the company stood behind its employees and its policy but then backpedaled after the story made headlines. It's hard to say which way the company will zig or zag now that the family has given its nod of approval.

That's right, grandma wanted to go out that way, with no intervention, according to the family. But Bayless had no do-not-resuscitate order. And isn't there a moral if not a legal requirement to render aid to a person in distress? I guess that depends on what state you're standing in. And how much you value your job over human life.

Much like the fire department that let a house burn down because the residents hadn't paid their fire tax, the folks at Glenwood Gardens were apparently so concerned with being sued, reprimanded or fired that no one would help Bayless. The 911 operator pleaded with the woman on the phone to help or find someone who would because that's what 911 operators are trained to do. But no one would. They stood by and watched her die.

The seven-plus minute 911 tape is one of the most infuriating recordings to which I've ever listened. Some lowlights:

Employee: "Yeah, we can't do CPR."

The dispatcher asks can anyone, even another senior citizen help? Is there a guest there who can help, she asks. Can they flag someone down in the street?

Employee: "No. No."

The dispatcher tells her the woman is going to die.

Employee: "I understand. I am a nurse, but I cannot have our other senior citizens who don't know CPR ..."

At that point the operator even tries to convince her that there will be no legal repercussions. She pleads with them to do something, anything.

The employee's response is to complain to someone in the room that the operator is yelling at her.

Dispatcher: "We're going to let this lady die?"

Nurse: "Well, that's why we're calling 911."

Dispatcher: "She can't wait. ... She is stopping breathing."

Nurse: "... You can talk to my boss."

(This the point when I really wanted to punch someone. This woman actually reduced a life-and-death situation to a speak-to-my-supervisor customer service call, like she was taking heat from someone whose computer was on the fritz.)

And then, the coup de grace:

Dispatcher: "... Is there anybody that's willing to help this lady and not let her die?"

Nurse: "Not at this time."

If your blood doesn't run icy cold at that, check to make sure you don't need CPR.

What concerns me most, oddly enough, is not that Bayless herself died. If, in fact, that is what she wanted, then who are we to be outraged by that?

No, what I'm outraged by is the callousness, the indifference to a human being drawing her last breaths (one of which can be heard on the tape, if you really want a chill) and no one has the courage to cross the company line. What if Bayless hadn't wanted to die?

The fact is she'd still be dead, because these cold-hearted, selfish and dare I say it, wicked cowards stood by and did nothing because some corporate lawyer said so.

It's a sad day in America when company policy trumps the golden rule.

Email Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.

Comments

NewsReader 1 year, 1 month ago

You can create all the drama you want surrounding this story because that's what you people do. There are so many stories regarding what transpired, I'm not sure what to believe. There is your story, his story, her story, their story, my story and the real story. Her wishes, according to her family, was DNR. Done! Over! End of Story!

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LoganvilleResident 1 year, 1 month ago

For once, I agree with you NewsReader. If she moved into the home knowing they would not provide medical care, we should respect and honor her decision. The family obviously is OK with it and they say it was also her desire. Who are we to judge the nursing home and nurse if the lady wanted to be left alone?

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FordGalaxy 1 year, 1 month ago

The only thing with that premise, and something I've seen in other places, is that the family did NOT have a written DNR order. Like the famous quote, a "verbal contract" is only worth the paper it's written on. A verbal DNR likely wouldn't stand, as it would be only hearsay. If there was no written DNR order, then I completely understand the operator's concern. If the facility had a written DNR order, then the facility did nothing wrong.

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Dubbin 1 year, 1 month ago

What fascinates me is that the people who will be most upset at the decision not to do CPR on this woman (which, apparently, was her wish) are the bible pounders who say you're going to paradise when you die. Well, if this lady wanted to be let go from her pain and failing health to go to heaven why is the God Squad trying to make her stay here? I felt the same way about Karen Ann Quinland and Terri Schiavo. Even John Paul II refused feeding tubes and CPR when his time came and you didn’t see the Catholic Church hooking him up to machines did you? Death isn't optional, it comes to us all. Time to get the lawyers and moral majority out of the process and let people die with the dignity of knowing their wishes will be respected.

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JoToP 1 year, 1 month ago

Congratulation Nate McCullough. The above comments just proved your article.

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nmccullough 1 year, 1 month ago

The point is not that THIS lady preferred to go out that way. The point is it was the company's policy to not administer CPR no matter what, even if she had wanted to live. Listen to the 911 tape and then imagine that Bayless wanted to live. Better yet, imagine your mother or grandmother lying there gasping for breath. She'd still be dead because no one would've been willing to help. That's the point, which I thought I made clearly.

I swear I'm going to quit writing columns.

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LoganvilleResident 1 year, 1 month ago

According to the family and the facility, the level of care provided at the facility was KNOWN prior to her admission. If the patient and family had full disclosure of the level of care, there is nothing to criticize. She knew if she had a medical emergency, they would not provide medical care.

Let people choose how to live out there last days instead of trying to enforce your beliefs on them. She made a choice to live there knowing full well what would happen if she went into cardiac arrest.

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NewsReader 1 year, 1 month ago

Perhaps you should quit writing columns. When you write an opinionated column such as this one, you set yourself up for criticism and then have a little hissy fit when people don't see eye to eye with your viewpoint. I don't have to imagine my mother lying there grasping for breath. That very thing happened to her. None of us had a problem with it because Mom explicitly told all three of us that she didn't want any resuscitation. She died quickly and peacefully. Why do you feel so compelled to jump into something that clearly isn't any of your or anyone else's business. This is between this family and this facility. If there was any wrongdoing, the authorities would have filed charges.

And since I am on a roll, when you don't like the message and don't get the responses to your writing that you feel you are entitled to, you and your colleagues make it a point to remove the column from view as quickly as possible. There are really stupid articles that stay on here for more than a week. Yet you managed to have this one removed within 24 hours in much the same way your colleague Dick Yarbrough does. How pathetic! If you guys can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen!

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nmccullough 1 year, 1 month ago

1) You don't get the point of my column. Period. PLEASE go back and read it again and try to understand that my point is not to circumvent the will of the patient or the family. My point is the facility should have a policy that it tries to save lives when people don't wish to die. As is, if this lady had wanted to live, she would still be dead because that's the company's policy, to do nothing.

2) I don't have a problem with fair criticism at all. I actually like hate mail when it makes a point. What I have a problem with is people who make knee-jerk comments based on what they THOUGHT they read. I never said, "Save 'em all anyway, whether they like it or not." I said, "Don't have a corporate policy that saves no one, ever, whether they like it or not."

3) Don't talk to me about heat and kitchens when you're not even in the kitchen in the first place. You hurl all your self-righteous thunderbolts at this website from the anonymity of cyberspace. I would think you'd want the credit. Yet you post no photo or name. You're just a phantom with a computer. And what exactly is your motivation for your limitless, anonymous commenting? Changing the world? Or just stirring the pot and being as big an irritant as possible? If it's the latter, I pity you.

4) We don't remove columns. They are on the web forever. We simply replace the top stories every day, sometimes multiple times a day, in an effort to keep the website current. But the columns are there, I assure you. Search my name, and they'll all show up. Or go here: http://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/news/analysis_opinion/columns/nate_mccullough/

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NewsReader 1 year, 1 month ago

LOL, you steamed over this for five days before you could muster up enough courage to respond to my post?

1) I get your point. I just don’t agree with your point. The policy of the facility is “not to resuscitate”. If you have a problem with that, don’t put your momma there.

2) Now you’re going to tell me what I “THOUGHT” I read? Seriously? Ditto Number 1. Spare me the “knee-jerk” rebuttal.

3) Whaa! Cry me a bucket full. Obviously I’m in the kitchen because you felt threatened enough by it so that you were compelled to respond. Getting a little warm is it? Notoriety is highly overrated. I don’t need, nor do I want, “…the credit…”. I say what needs to be said, and I’m done. I’m retired. I have all the time in the world. I don’t have any self-righteous motivations. You’re the one reporting this nonsense like somebody died and left you the authority on it. I do agree from time to time with things that you say. But you have notoriously done exactly that which you have accused me of, so put a sock in it. I’m not interested in stirring the pot, but I certainly won’t sit back and swallow the loads of bullcrap you, and a few others, keep shoveling and back away from those of you who think that your wisdom (and I use that term loosely), reaches beyond that of everyone else. I am an irritant to you only because I don’t agree with you. It really is that simple.

4) I said, and I quote “…you and your colleagues make it a point to remove the column from view as quickly as possible…” I have seen it happen numerous times where an article written or commentary provided by one of you was moved from the front page of the website when comments didn’t exactly reflect the viewpoint of the author within 24-48 hours. One time – coincidence. Multiple times – not so much. Yeah, I know the article can be accessed, but the rationale for deciding what gets moved to the back lot remains to be seen if not for this reason.

As for my time I don’t hate you, nor will I ever send you hate mail. But you did confirm the “little hissy fit” I described of you above. I hope you have a nice day Nate. I really do!

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nmccullough 1 year, 1 month ago

I didn't steam over it for five days to work up the courage, and I promise you, I in no way feel threatened by you. I didn't notice your comments until then, because the truth is I don't normally pay you any attention. Kind of like when your neighbor's dog barks so long that you finally don't hear it anymore.

And no, you don't get my point, "NewsReader," and obviously you're never going to because you don't want to. You want to be adversarial. An irritant. A rock in a shoe. You're retired? And you don't have anything better to do than to tell everyone how stupid they are? Seriously, have all the fish been caught? Is the Grand Canyon or the Pacific Ocean not still available for sightseeing? Retirement should be more fun.

Your No. 4 response proves that you are delusional about how this works. We move stories off the home page for no other reason than to make room for more that are more timely. It really is that simple. Yet you see a conspiracy of some sort, a group of journalists who gather together in some dark conclave wearing black robes to plot the destruction of free society. It just doesn't work that way, and it gets old trying to explain it to people.

You also impart power on me that I do not possess. I write a weekly newspaper column. Some people like it. Some don't. I don't feel like I'm king of the world or that I preach the gospel. I have no illusions about making any grand changes in public policy.

I'm very lucky to have this platform, and I enjoy putting my opinions out there. I enjoy debating people who disagree. I do not enjoy debating people who disagree just because they don't understand and don't want to.

But what I really loathe, the bane of my professional life in the 21st century, is keyboard courage, the anonymous lurkers who prowl the bowels of the Internet like trapdoor spiders, just waiting to come out of their hole and pounce on somebody, to wrap them in their web of caustic nonsense just to feed their need to feel superior. They won't sign an email or a letter, won't put a face with a name, won't take responsibility for all the opinions for which they seem to be so proud. It's gutless, pure and simple. And it's why I usually ignore people like that.

And since I just don't have the time for this anymore, I will now reinstate the policy of ignoring you. I guess it would be too much to ask that you do the same.

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NewsReader 1 year, 1 month ago

Yet you wrote all this crap. I'm not going to address your nonsense anymore except to say that your disdain for anonymous posters would indicate you dislike virtually everyone that posts comments - well, except the one or two that actually do use their name and those that happen to agree with you. Have a nice evening Nate!

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LilburnsFuture 1 year, 1 month ago

Many families are too scared to discuss end of life decisions. Some are so fearful, they do not even want to discuss which casket they want or where they want to be buried. Yet death is as much a part of life as birth.

I think the point Nate McCullough is making is how can someone sit there and 'not do anything when someone is dying'. Simply put, it is not easy.

If instead the location was at a Hospice care facility instead of a nursing home, the entire perspective of the national audience would have been different.

Try volunteering at a Hospice facility. It is both sad and cheerful. It takes people with strong wills and souls to work and volunteer there.

While I understand the opinion, the real purpose of this opinion should be that of - if you do NOT know if the person has the will to live one should help. If you know full well, such as a case with a hospice care facility, that the person does not want to be revived then even though it is not an easy decision to 'do nothing' you know in your conscience that it was the right thing to do.

Maybe a good outcome of this story is that people will actually begin a dialogue of their end of life decisions. People will fill our their living wills and families will come to grip with a member's terminal illness or last few days.

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Haughton 1 year, 1 month ago

My first and last day commenting at the Gwinnett Daily Post Bully Pulpit.

Done.

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