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Woman’s death raises questions over whether to perform CPR

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BROOKFIELD (WITI) -- Despite a 911 operator's urgent pleas, a staffer with CPR training at an elderly living facility refused to perform the procedure on a resident who had stopped breathing. The reason for the refusal? Glenwood Gardens in Bakersfield, California, has a policy against its employees providing medical care.

Lorraine Bayless, 87, died.

The 911 call reads as follows:

"I am a nurse but I cannot have our other senior citizens who don't know CPR --

"I will in instruct then in it."

"--to do this. We're in a dining room."

"I will instruct them. Is there anyone there who is willing...?"

"I cannot do that."

"Ok I do not understand why you're not willing to help this patient."

A 911 dispatcher pleaded with the nurse to change her mind.

"Anybody there can do CPR. Give them the phone please. I understand if your facility is not willing to do that. Give the phone to that passerby, then -- that stranger. This woman is not breathing enough. She is going to die if we don't get this started. Do you understand?" the 911 dispatcher said.

Following Bayless' death, the Glenwood Gardens retirement facility in California released a statement defending the nurse, saying she followed protocol -- by calling 911 and waiting for help to arrive. While many are outraged, nothing about what happened appears to be illegal.

Frank Pasternak is a wrongful death attorney in Brookfield. He says as long as the facility told the 87-year-old woman and her family about their policy, the retirement home probably won't face any consequences. However, he also says there is no legal justification to have such a policy.

"It comes down to reasonableness. Whats reasonable conduct, what's not reasonable conduct. That kind of policy is a bad thing," Pasternak said.

Even if Bayless had gotten CPR, it may not have saved her life.

"The reality is that for the elderly who are in long-term care facilities -- their rate of resuscitation is not as successful," Pasternak said.

In Wisconsin, if you go out of your way to help someone, you can't be held liable because of the Good Samaritan law. However, if you are a nurse or a licensed health care professional, and you're getting paid for your good deed, that is a different story.

If the nurse in this case was in Wisconsin and she messed something up during CPR, she could be sued.

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