Nurse Lets Patient Die in Real Life Milgram Experiment

March 7th, 2013   Submitted by Davi Barker

CPR RobotI’m so disturbed, on so many levels I feel like I’m about to crawl out of my skin. I’m as angry as I am sad as I am scared by this story. I am disgusted, not only by the nurse involved, but also by the administrators who wrote this policy, and the media covering the story.

87-year-old Lorraine Bayless collapsed at Glenwood Gardens senior living facility in Bakersfield, California. A nurse named Colleen called 911 and was instructed by the dispatcher, Tracey Halvorson, to perform CPR to save the woman’s life, but Colleen replied that it was against their policy and she couldn’t do it, so she watched Lorraine die.

Audio of the 911 call has been released which is chilling to the bone, and mainstream coverage of the story is almost as terrifying.

Let me begin by saying how truly sorry I am for the family’s loss. Maybe this has impacted me so deeply because my own grandmother was recently admitted into an assisted living facility. I can’t imagine losing a family member in such a shocking display of callous indifference from a medical professional.

There are no words. You have to hear it for yourself. Here are the news videos I found with the best audio:

Nurse Allegedly Refuses Woman, 87, CPR, Despite 911 Operators’ Pleas

Frantic 911 Dispatcher Pleads w Nurse Not Performing CPR On Dying Semior

Let’s start with the media. For some reason ABC News decided to go with “allegedly” in their headline, as in “Nurse Allegedly Refuses Woman, 87, CPR.” It’s not alleged. It’s a recording, in Colleen’s own voice, repeatedly refusing, in their own news broadcast. Second, the reporter on site, Abbie Boudreau, opens with “This recorded 911 call has many people questioning why company policy seemed to trump saving the life of a dying woman.” Frankly, I don’t care what the company policy is. I’m questioning how a medical professional, who has taken an oath to do no harm, obeys this policy when a human life hangs in the balance. How does someone live with themselves sitting back and watching someone die when they are trained to provide life saving emergency medical assistance that is simple enough to explain over the phone. And finally, there’s the legal analyst, Dan Abrams, there to explain that Colleen, and the Glenwood Gardens staff, were within their legal rights to sit and watch Lorraine die. He said, “If she were to have done something, she would have been violating the companies policy, and I think that’s where they’ve got to focus. Was the company policy the right one?”

Everyone at every level of media coverage is doing their damnedest to abstract the issue away from the level of individual personal responsibility. The closest we get to any discussion of a moral question is the Bakersfield Fire Battalion Chief, Anthony Galagaza saying, “I can’t comment on people’s moral choices.” So, we can acknowledge it’s a moral issue. We just can’t say anything about it.

All I see here are obedient robots. The nurse, the administrators, the media, the legal analyst and inexplicably even the victim’s family all act as if there is no moral question as long as protocol is followed. It’s like some kind of mental disorder created by a culture of Statism. Like the firefighters who watched a man drown last year because they weren’t certified for water rescue, or the countless teachers who have suspended grade school children for making gun gestures with their finger, or eating a piece of toast into the shape of a pistol under some idiotic zero tolerance policy.

This is a statement released from the Executive Director of Glenwood Gardens, Jeffrey Toomer (fitting name):

“In the event of a health emergency at this independent living community, 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. As with any incident involving a resident, we will conduct a thorough internal review of this matter.”

As Michael W. Dean and Neema Vedadi of Freedom Feens are so fond of saying, “State speech is hate speech.” That is State speech coming from the private sector, to whatever extent we can still call medicine the private sector.

The most disturbing part of the 911 call itself, aside from Colleen sounding exactly like the typical DMV sociocrat, is how familiar Tracy the dispatcher sounds with this problem. It’s as if she’s had to deal with this response before. She says, “I understand if your facility is not willing to do (CPR). Give the phone to a passerby or a stranger and I will instruct them… EMS takes the liability for this Colleen. I’m happy to help you. This is the EMS protocol.”

It was that line about taking the liability that really turned my guts upside down, because anyone who knows the Stanley Milgram Experiment knows that that is the phrase which allowed otherwise psychologically healthy individuals to electrocute complete strangers to death in numbers that shocked the medical establishment.

In the Milgram Experiment participants were divided into “teachers” and “learners.” The teachers were instructed to read questions to the learners and if they answered incorrectly to shock them with ever increasing voltage. What they didn’t know was that the learners were part of the experiment, the shocks were fake, and the teachers were the subjects of the experiment. Despite screams of pain, complaints of heart conditions, and ultimately eerie silence from the learners, 65% of the teachers administered doses of electricity they knew to be lethal simply because an authority figure told them they took the liability.

Whether Tracy understood it explicitly or intuitively, she recognized that Colleen was part of the 65% willing murder rather than disobey. She recognized that she was not engaged in a rational or moral discussion with Colleen, but in a clash of authority with Colleen’s boss. So she immediately made the only argument from authority she had. “We take liability. This is our protocol.” And immediately Colleen begins looking for her boss, and telling people she’s not going to make the call. Colleen immediately tries to avoid taking responsibility.

Colleen was trapped between two conflicting orders from two conflicting authorities, and rather than taking the initiative, and doing the right thing, she did what any robot does when given contradictory commands. She froze. Complete system failure.

“Just following orders” isn’t just for soldiers anymore. We are producing a society where private individuals no longer have the confidence, or the moral fortitude to make common sense decisions for themselves. For them obedience to authority is the only virtue, even if that authority is just company policy, set by lawyers to protect them from legal liability in the State courts.

The good news is there’s something we can do. As soon as I heard this audio I jumped on my Satoshi client and instantly shot Fr33 AID 6 Bitcoin. Fr33 AID is a mutual aid organization run by Voluntaryists to provide medical services at liberty oriented events. One of their primary missions to teach people how to properly perform life saving CPR.

I feel better knowing someone out there has made it their mission to not only teach people how to perform CPR correctly, but to promote the self confidence necessary to actually act on that knowledge. I donate in the hopes that when I’m old enough to be in one of those facilities there will be Volunaryists running the joint, and if they aren’t at least I’ll have the knowledge and the drive to push the robot out of the way and break policy. Because if Colleen is any indication, as the State takes over more and more of the medical industry, having medical professionals around won’t matter if saving your life is against protocol.

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21 Responses to “Nurse Lets Patient Die in Real Life Milgram Experiment”

  1. Nashat SamirNo Gravatar says:

    Quite a disturbing read Brother. I just finished reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and this reminded me of various characters in the book who also ‘froze’ and allowed people to die/starve rather than take responsibility and exercise common sense. Hopefully, we will have Voluntaryists running all joints soon and do not have to rely on robots to save lives.

    • Davi BarkerNo Gravatar says:

      Exactly my point. I’ll admit to being emotional when I wrote this, but the fact remains the State is turning medical professionals into sociocrats. It’s bad now, and if it keeps going this way it’ll be 10 times worse when we’re old enough to need assisted living.

  2. Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

    This is a really interesting topic on so many levels. I completely understand Davi’s fury in this matter, but I personally don’t share it.

    A few points I’d like to make.

    #1 Each resident signed a waiver that they will not be receiving any medical attention from any staff member at the facility. Now granted, we all sign waivers all the time that really don’t mean squat in the statist paradigm. It’s unfortunate that competition is so unfree in the business world that people’s choices are so limited that people will sign waivers to medical attention simply because there’s no other choice. That being said, she did sign it.

    #2 The employee(nurse) did sign an agreement that they would not attempt CPR on any residents. Why the company made that policy, I don’t know. But from a libertarian standpoint, she had a contractual agreement NOT to perform CPR on resident, and she was on her employers property. An argument could be made she did the libertarian thing by not violating her contract.

    #3 INACTION is never a libertarian crime. Only with ACTION can a person commit a libertarian crime. So, that being said, NOT saving a person’s life is NOT a crime. Only actively engaging in assault can it be said murder has transpired. I don’t think we can label the nurse’s actions criminal in this case.

    So, all that being said. At worst the nurse is a pathetic human being, but definitely not criminal. There are enough criminals in this world to worry about that mere losers are little concern to me.

    If we want to look at this from the Randian point of view, why should the nurse risk her job to save this 87 year old’s life?

    • Nashat SamirNo Gravatar says:

      Seth, you’re right. I do think that if and when a voluntaryist society is fully functioning there wouldn’t be such idiotic policies to obey.

    • MAMNo Gravatar says:

      I agree with Seth.

      I would like add that my Paps whose an EMT feels the same way.

    • Zell FazeNo Gravatar says:

      I am also in agreement with Seth on his first 3 points. I do know though, that I would not be friends with this lady anymore if knew her.

      There is a moral obligation here that transcends the contracts that she signed I think. While not a criminal act, it certainly was a major moral transgression. In my opinion, saving someone’s life is far more important than a contract I signed with my employer.

    • GlennNo Gravatar says:

      All true, though, in an actually free society, I imagine one who upheld such a policy, and a company which maintained said policy, would loose ALL their business quite quickly.

      I’m sure this type of thing is propagated, a side from people’s blind obedience, but also regulations, and liabilities in the past.

      Almost ironic, considering in a free society, there would be MORE responsibility for your actions, but it wouldn’t be perverted liabilities like we can often have now which lead to insurance companies, etc, getting away with, and being incentive to provide, ineffective coverage, at exorbitant rates.

      A company with a similar policy in a free society would, as mentioned, not get much business, but also, loose any employees who were willing to do the right thing and help. There would also be PLENTY of people willing to hire such a person in the case that they lost their job for saving a life.

      Look what happens to kids today when they DO try and help and do the right thing, they get suspended for tackling a gunman.

      • GlennNo Gravatar says:

        So, long story short, while she has no obligation to help, and should not be forced to, in a free society, she would be more than incentivised to help out, whether her employer wanted it or not.
        Even if she was just doing so for her best interests, considering the backlash she would receive for refusing.

        Who would hire her if she ever lost her job later?

        Right now she’s probably desperate to keep her job for fear that there simply won’t be jobs available, regardless of whether or not she’s hireable.

        People claim that, without government, it would be people acting just like this woman, only looking out for themselves, at the cost of the lives of others. Well that is EXACTLY what you are getting WITH governments. WithOUT the state, you would have the exact opposite of what cynical people claim. Skepticism is great, cynicism is a huge downfall in society.

    • Davi BarkerNo Gravatar says:

      Seth, I see you’re point. And I’ll concede that there isn’t a natural crime in the actions of the nurse or the facility. What I’m most concerned about in this story is the unintended influence that an environment of statism has on the culture. There’s conflicting reports about whether or not Lorraine had a DNR, and I see your point about the admittance waiver being effectively a DNR, but the facility doesn’t ask for that waiver because they think it’s the most rational/profitable/moral/natural policy. They have it to cover their asses in State courts. The policy is a subtle unintended consequence of the State’s monopoly on dispute resolution.

  3. Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

    And another thing…

    I could totally see going out of one’s way to perform CPR on, say, a 40 year old. Younger people almost universally want to be saved if something random and life-threatening is happening to them, like a heart attack.

    But people that are 87 have one foot in the grave and the ones that are honest with themselves know that. I’ll bet the reason the people that lived at that home lived there is because they’ve accepted the fact that mortality is about to get the better of them. When my grandmother was in her 70’s she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Sadly, most people run out and get chemo and all that garbage. But she wanted none of it. She was going to continue to live life and play pinochle with her friends until she needed hospice care and died. No use blowing through all your kids’ inheritance and hating the last few months or years of your life trying to extend it by a few more months.

    I think the western world is all messed up when it comes to death. We seem to have a real problem with it. Now, it’s easy to say this as a 31 year old, but my hope is that when I get so old that death is at my door, I’ll open it willingly and with some dignity.

    • AgoristTeen1994No Gravatar says:

      Very, very true Seth. So many people fear death which, to me is pointless, and foolish. Regardless of what your opinion on “after death” whether like myself and most other religious people, you believe in an afterlife, or the total oblivion that many atheists believe in, or something in between (such as reincarnation) the fact of the matter is that regardless of what happens AFTER death, the death is still, most definitely an inevitability. A quote from Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson sums up my views on the matter pretty effectively (though obviously non-Christians may have issues with that statement) This quote is from when a captain who, while serving under General Jackson, asked him how the general could be so seemingly fearless in the face of a high possibility of death. This was General Jackson’s reply:

      “Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave”

  4. woodyNo Gravatar says:

    I am 64. Everyone who knows me knows I do not wished to be revived in the event my heart stops. I am told by first responders that they routinely ignore those wishes. That bothers me a lot more than what happened to the lady in the assisted living facility. As a result I have instructed all of those close to me not to call 911 until they are sure it is too late. I have heard that the family is satisfied that the nurse did the right thing and have no plans to pursue the matter.

  5. HReardenNo Gravatar says:

    I have heard it reported that the woman who called 911 was not a nurse. Also it has been reported that according to the woman’s family she did not want to be resesitated. ion-013800673.html

  6. NathanNo Gravatar says:

    Ms Bayless had signed a Do Not Resuscitate form, and it is against the policy of the retirement home to give CPR to residents against their wishes.

    If someone does not want extensive measure to prolong their life that should be their right! f-defend-giving-dying-resident-CPR-DNR.html#ixzz2MxYFnBCG

  7. SleepySalsaNo Gravatar says:

    This is exactly what happens when the warfare-welfare State (& its corporate counterparts) supersedes the actual free market in one’s mind. Not only is there no genuine tolerance for the non-coercive behavior of others, but there is also no respect at all for any notion of individual accountability. It is an inevitable consequence, under such conditions, for people to value the “office” or the “group” above that of the flesh and blood humans right in front of their faces.

    Indoctrination should never be underestimated, nor how the hard power of the State also serves to reinforce its soft power, as Rothbard has mentioned. If you see somebody standing up to a blue-costumed “tin-badge god,” and he gets a face full of concrete (largely due to the fact that he never received a martial education, not necessarily because he was wrong to challenge so-called “authority” in the first place), it will be strongly impressed upon you and everyone else to never resist tyrants, lest you meet the same fate. Such, I would argue, took place here. Colleen, more likely than not, was already conditioned to never challenge “company policy,” since she seems more concerned about keeping her job with that hospital rather than attempting to save Bayless’ life (which, ironically, you’d think was exactly her job, but I digress).

    I would like to hear how the economic incentives for a dispute resolution organization might do a better job at trying to keep Bayless alive. I’m not yet as well versed in the Austrian tradition as I’d like to be, but I am trying to learn by reading several of their books, since the very concept of DROs sound pretty trippy, even for me.

    • woodyNo Gravatar says:

      It seems that the patient had a DNR in force. Are you suggesting that her wishes should have been ignored? I wonder if it is possible that the nurse was aware of the DNR as well as the policy of her employer?

      In 1997 my father was a resident of a nursing home. He had a DNR in force. One night he fell into a diabetic coma (not an unpleasant way to die). A member of the staff called an ambulance and also my sister. My sister, who was a registered nurse and worked at the hospital where the ambulance went, met them at the emergency room and explained that there was a DNR in force. The hospital went ahead and resuscitated my father against his will and in spite of my sister’s objections. Several days later my father, my sister, and an attorney met with the nursing home with regard to their failure to abide by the DNR. The nursing home was placed on notice that another similar incident would be met with a lawsuit. The hospital was considered blameless because once the system is engaged they were (according to them) required to treat the patient.

      Throughout the entire ordeal no one other than my sister had any interest in what my father wanted. He was merely a pawn to be used by the others to suit their agenda. Seems like this is very similar to what happened to this unfortunate woman.

      • MAMNo Gravatar says:

        When I was a boy of 9 my grandma was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a vicious cancer that kills it’s victims fairly quickly. My grandma was a tough lady who lasted 10 years with this terribly painful illness.

        When I was a teenager she got a DNR/DNI. I didn’t know when I came home from school whether she would be dead or alive. When she died, her wishes were respected.

        A year later my other grandma my father’s mother was in the hospital sick and dying. She also had a DNR/DNI my father respected her wishes, and let her die rather than intubate her. My great aunts (my grandma’s sisters) did not take kindly to this and attempted to get my father brought up on charges of murder. All he did was respect the wishes of the sick and dying. My point is that it seems to me that people who do not wish to acknowledge their own mortality normally do not want to respect the wishes of the old and dying.

        There comes a point in life when enough is enough and people just want to die peacefully people need to respect these wishes because lingering is not fun or enjoyable for anyone involved with it. Trust me I know I took care of grandma whilst she lingered. Near the end she was always in pain…

  8. ThomasNo Gravatar says:

    A disappointing piece by the Daily Anarchist. Please read for a more balanced and correct accounting of what actually happened. I have found this source to be most reliable and unbiased in reporting many things. Mr. Denninger is NOT an anarchist, but is committed to accurate reporting and honest commentary.

    Ownership of ones body included the right to terminate your own life if you want to and to choose the type facility to live in – one without medical staff – in old age. It is no ones elses business.