California lawmakers on Tuesday sent legislation to Gov. Jerry Brown that would bar employers from having policies that prohibit offering life-saving medical help in an emergency after a worker's attention-grabbing refusal to perform CPR on a resident at an independent-living facility.
The bill by Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, was prompted by the February death of Lorraine Bayless, 87, at a Bakersfield retirement home.
The case sparked outrage when a woman who identified herself as a nurse told a dispatcher on a 911 call that her company's policy prevented her from performing CPR. Bayless collapsed Feb. 26 in the Glenwood Gardens dining hall, and someone called 911 and asked for an ambulance.
The dispatcher implored the nurse to find someone else to perform CPR and said she would provide instructions on how to do it, but the woman refused.
"I understand if your facility is not willing to do that," dispatcher Tracey Halvorson was heard saying. "Give the phone to a passer-by. This woman is not breathing enough. She is going to die if we don't get this started. Do you understand?"
By the time paramedics arrived, Bayless had stopped breathing.
Sen. Norma Torres, D-Pomona, who carried AB633 in the Senate, said the legislation would save employees from being in the difficult position of having to "choose between saving a fellow citizen's life and being fired for breaking a company's policy." Torres is a former 911 operator.
The bill says employers shall not adopt or enforce any policy prohibiting workers from voluntarily providing medical services such as CPR. It does not require or imply that employers should be responsible for training their employees on emergency medical services or CPR.
The Senate unanimously approved the legislation Tuesday, sending it to Brown.
The owner of the Bakersfield home, Brookdale Senior Living, initially said its employee acted correctly by waiting until emergency personnel arrived, but later said the worker misinterpreted the company's guidelines.
Bayless' family said she wished to die naturally and would not have wanted CPR.