Utah nurse forcibly arrested after refusing police blood draw from unconscious patient

Brian Zimmerman - Print  | 

A University of Utah Hospital nurse says she was unlawfully arrested by a Salt Lake City police detective July 26 for adhering to hospital policy that does not permit blood draws from unconscious patients without a warrant, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Here are seven things to know.

1. A video from the arresting officer's body camera shows nurse Alex Wubbels, RN, and Detective Jeff Payne in a standoff over whether the officer should be allowed to draw blood from an unconscious patient harmed in a motor vehicle accident. In the video, Ms. Wubbels says hospital policy won't permit the blood draw unless the patient has consented, is under arrested or the police have a warrant. In the footage, the detective acknowledges no such requirements have been met, but argues he has the authority to obtain the blood to see if the patient had illicit substances in his body at the time of the crash.

2. The video shows Mr. Payne accusing the nurse of interfering with a criminal case. Ms. Wubbels consults with hospital officials and repeats the policy back to the officer. Mr. Payne then grabs the nurse, pulls her hands behind her back, handcuffs her and forcibly leads her outside. Ms. Wubbels pleads for help as she is arrested.

3. A University of Utah police officer and Department Public Safety officer were present at the time of the arrest, but did not intervene.

4. In a written poklice report, Mr. Payne said he was told by Lt. James Tracy, the watch commander on duty, Ms. Wubbels was interfering with a police investigation if she did not permit him to obtain the blood sample. Mr. Payne also said in the report that he wanted the blood to protect the patient, not for punitive reasons, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

5. In his written report, cited by The Salt Lake Tribune, Mr. Tracy said he believed Mr. Payne had implied consent to obtain the blood sample. Karra Porter, Ms. Wubbells attorney, told The Salt Lake Tribune "implied consent" hasn't been legal in Utah since 2007.

6. Mr. Payne has been suspended from the Salt Lake City police department's blood draw program, but remains on duty with the department. He is the subject of an ongoing internal investigation. No lawsuit has been filed, but Ms. Porter has had discussions with the police department and believes it will use the incident to educate officers.

7. No charges were leveled against Ms. Wubbels.

"University of Utah Health supports nurse Wubbles and her decision to focus first and foremost on the care and well-being of her patient," said Suzanne Winchester, University of Utah Health media relations manager, in a statement emailed to Becker's. "She followed procedures and protocols in this matter and was acting in her patient's best interest. We have worked with our law enforcement partners on this issue to ensure an appropriate process for moving forward."

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