Nightly News   |  March 04, 2013

Refusal to help dying senior raises moral questions

An 87-year-old with a heart problem died because her independent living facility had a policy against providing CPR.  Should more have been done to help her? NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening. we begin tonight with an incident recorded on tape that lit up millions of americans when they first heard it. it's caused a lot of people to ask a lot of questions about the kinds of places where our parents and grandparents go to live and go to be cared for. questions especially personal and urgent for the generation of children who are responsible for their care. what you're about to hear is the story behind a 911 call involving an 87-year-old woman who eventually died. it's a struggle recorded on tape between a staff member who is following policy and a 911 operator begging her, begging someone, anyone, to step in and try to save a life. we begin tonight with nbc's miguel almaguer, outside the facility in bakersfield , california tonight. miguel , good evening.

>> reporter: brian, good evening. that emergency call came in from the senior living center here on this campus, not from the nursing home. emergency medical personnel has never assisted or never goes to that living center. but tonight local police say they want to know if that cry for help was handled properly. the 911 call came in here. this bakersfield dispatch center. 87-year-old lorraine bayliss collapsed inside the senior independent living center.

>> we need to get cpr started. that's not enough.

>> okay.

>> we can't do cpr .

>> the caller refuses to perform cpr . management at glenwood garden says it's against company policy.

>> our practice is to immediately call emergency medical personnel for assistance and to wait with the individual needing attention until such personnel arrives. that is the protocol we followed.

>> this woman is not breathing enough, she's going to die if we don't get this started. do you understand?

>> i understand.

>> okay.

>> i am a nurse. but i cannot have our other senior citizens who don't know cpr --

>> i will instruct them --

>> i am in a dining room .

>> i will instruct them. is there anyone there --

>> for dr. kevin donovan of georgetown university medical center , the call raises moral questions .

>> as a society, we should expect those who are able to help to come to our aid. particularly when it's no risk to them and most especially when they are trained medical professionals .

>> is there a gardner, any staff, anybody that doesn't work for you anywhere? can we flag someone down in the street and get them to help this lady?

>> almost every state in the union has what are called good samaritan laws. they allow people to help in a medical emergency without fear of legal jeopardy.

>> today lorraine bayliss' daughter, a nurse herself, released this statement. i don't believe if cpr were done it would have helped or changed this the result. this is not about my mother or me. this is about the policy. i agree with what was done. but bakersfield police now say they're reviewing the call, a probe into possible criminal wrongdoing. this, as many are asking, could more have been done?

>> i understand if your boss is telling you can't do it. but if there is any -- if a human being -- is there anyone willing to help this lady and not let her die?

>> not at this time.

>> reporter: tonight, one state lawmaker is asking for a review of that 911 call. rudy solas says he is shocked by what he heard. mean time , the owners and operators of this facility who say they own the most senior facilities of anywhere in the country say they too are conducting a thorough investigation. brian?

>> miguel almaguer starting us off in bakersfield , california tonight. miguel ,