Viral Video Forces Hospital Policy Changes

Sep 1, 2017


The video of a University of Utah Hospital nurse refusing to submit her patient to a blood test and turn that blood sample over to the Salt Lake Police department, and then being handcuffed and hauled out of the building for her refusal, is going viral  - and has prompted University Hospital leaders to update their policy of blood draws. Leslie Thatcher has more.

In a letter sent today to their hospital staff, Gordon Crabtree, Chief Executive Officer of University Hospital expressed the administration’s support for Nurse Alex Wubbels and reaffirmed the hospital’s commitment to safety and privacy of their patients.

His  letter is in response to a video – now all over the news and social media – that shows a Salt Lake City police officer demanding that Nurse Wubbels take a blood sample from an unconscious patient who had been involved in a car accident. She refuses, and even shows the detective a printed copy of the three conditions of which she can release a patient’s blood – with the patient’s consent – if the patient is under arrest or if the officer has a warrant. None of those conditions were met. While Wubbels was handcuffed and put into a police car, she was not arrested and was released shortly. Wubbels says it’s her job to keep her patient safe.

The incident occurred in July, but it wasn't made public until Wubbels held a press conference with her attorney on Thursday.

Nurses that KPCW spoke to, agreed that Nurse Wubbels did the right thing: she follow hospital procedure and was acting in her patient’s best interest.  

Certified Nurse Midwife Danielle Demeter is concerned by the incident. She told KPCW if the only thing nurses had to worry about is whether or not their patients are safe and well cared for – that would be a tough job. But she says, they also have to face daily staff shortages and resource limitations. The police Demeter added acted forcefully and unprofessionally and Nurse Wubbels did not pose a threat to the officer's safety.  In our most vulnerable times, she said, if we can’t rely on someone protecting our rights, we can’t truly be free citizens.

The University’s letter to staff said they called a meeting with law enforcement just hours after the incident took place to express their concern and to look for better solutions for future instances.

Further, the University has created a clear policy that allows for open communication with hospital administrators while protecting the staff who directly cares for patients.

University Hospital procedure now says in the event that law enforcement requests or requires a blood sample from a patient, they will be immediately directed to the House Supervisor on duty, who will work to find a sensible solution. The policy update they say means anyone who cares for patients won’t have to worry about making decisions at a moment's notice other than those who affect the direct care of their patients.

The Salt Lake Police Dept. is also reportedly updating its blood draw policy. The officer involved has been suspended from the blood draw program and an investigation is underway.

Nurse Wubbels at one point called Park City home. Her maiden name is Alex Shaffer and she is a former member of the United States Alpine Ski Team, competing in both the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics.

KPCW reached out to Wubbel's attorney, Karra Porter, to get links to the raw video of the incident.   Jake Macfarlane, an attorney who works with Porter, provided the following:   

The first link is from the body cam of the arresting officer, Officer J. Payne.  The arrest occurs between 19:28 and 23:18.

The second link is from the body cam of another Salt Lake City officer.  The arrest occurs between 5:25 and 7:55.

Alex Wubbel released this statement Friday:

“This morning, I received a call from the Mayor of Salt Lake City and the Chief of Police.  They both offered me personal apologies, which I felt were sincere.  I have accepted those apologies, and I look forward to working with both of them to help promote further civil dialogue and education.  The common goal of all public service professionals should be to provide the best care to our fellow citizens. 

The outpouring of support has been beyond what I could have imagined.  Since the incident, the City has taken this matter seriously, and I believe that positive change will occur.”