Last week, body-cam footage was released of a Salt Lake City detective arresting a nurse for refusing to let them draw blood from their unconscious patient. Alex Wubbels, RN, the head nurse at the University of Utah Hospital’s burn unit, was following hospital policy and state regulations by refusing consent, but she was still handcuffed and arrested despite protests from the hospital staff.
Shortly after footage of the incident was released, The American Nurses Association (ANA) issued the following statement, “The ANA is outraged that a registered nurse was handcuffed and arrested by a police officer for following her hospital’s policy and the law, and is calling for the Salt Lake City Police Department to conduct a full investigation, make amends to the nurse, and take action to prevent future abuses.”
In the video, Wubbels consulted with her supervisors and presented details about the hospital’s policy, which states that that blood could not be taken from an unconscious patient unless a warrant was issued for the blood draw or the patient consents. The officer stated that they had implied consent to get the sample; however, implied consent has not been Utah law for over a decade, and the Supreme Court ruled against warrantless blood tests in 2016. When Wubbels and the hospital staff continued to refuse, the officer grew irritated and made the arrest.
“It is outrageous and unacceptable that a nurse should be treated in this way for following her professional duty to advocate on behalf of the patient as well as following the policies of her employer and the law,” said ANA President Pam Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN.
In a press conference last week, Wubbels’ lawyer Karra Porter called her arrest unlawful: “The law is well-established. And it’s not what we were hearing in the video,” she said. “I don’t know what was driving this situation.”
In the same conference, Wubbels gave the following statement: “I want to see people do the right thing first and I want to see this be a civil discourse. If that’s not something that’s going to happen and there is refusal to acknowledge the need for growth and the need for re-education, then we will likely be forced to take [legal action]. But people need to know that this is out there.”
The mayor and police chief of Salt Lake City have apologized to Ms. Wubbels, and have agreed to perform an investigation of the incident. The police officer involved and his supervisor have been suspended as well.
Because of this incident, facilities throughout the country are reassessing their policies. The University of Utah has already changed their policy so that nurses will no longer have direct contact with the police, and other facilities are hoping to do the same.