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 firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.