A Utah nurse says she was scared to death and “trying to find anything to hold on to” when a police officer dragged her from a hospital and handcuffed her for refusing to allow blood to be drawn from an unconscious patient.
Nurse Alex Wubbels followed hospital policy and advice from her bosses when, on July 26, she told Salt Lake City Police Detective Jeff Payne he could not get the blood sample without a warrant or consent from the patient, her lawyer Karra Porter said.
Police body-camera video shows Ms Wubbels, who works in the University of Utah Hospital’s burn unit, calmly explaining that she could not take blood from a patient who had been injured in a deadly car accident, citing a recent change in law.
A 2016 US Supreme Court ruling affirmed that a blood sample cannot be taken without patient consent or a warrant.
Ms Wubbels, a former alpine skier who competed in the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics, told Mr Payne a patient was required to give consent for a blood sample to determine intoxication or be under arrest.
Otherwise, she said, police needed a warrant — but Mr Payne insisted.
In an interview on Friday, Ms Wubbels said the officer lost his temper and “attacked me and assaulted me and dragged me out of my emergency department”.
The dispute ended with Mr Payne saying, “We’re done, you’re under arrest”, before he pushed a screaming Ms Wubbels outside. She was then pushed against a wall and handcuffed.
Ms Wubbels said she was screaming and “just trying to hold on to anything that was keeping me safe because no-one else was keeping me safe.
“This cop bullied me. He bullied me to the utmost extreme and nobody stood in his way,” Ms Wubbels said.
The detective left Ms Wubbels in a hot police car for 20 minutes before realising blood had already been drawn as part of the patient’s treatment, her attorney said. She was not booked or charged.
“This has upended her worldview in a way. She just couldn’t believe this could happen,” Ms Porter said.
Ms Wubbels said she acted as any good nurse would, following her training and protocols to protect the rights of a patient who could not speak for himself.
“You can’t just take blood if you don’t have a legitimate concern for something to be tested,” she said.
“It is the most personal property I think that we can have besides our skin and bones and organs.”
Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said in a statement: “This is an ever-evolving situation and we will do what is necessary to fully investigate the issue, uphold the integrity of the Salt Lake City Police Department and strengthen the trust with our community.”
Mayor Jackie Biskupski added: “We cannot allow an incident like this [to] divide our community or taint the good work of SLCPD.
“When I learned of this unacceptable incident last night, I was outraged an will ensure it is fully and independently investigated so our community can heal.”
The patient was a victim in a car crash and Mr Payne wanted the blood sample to show he had done nothing wrong, according to the officer’s written report.
The patient, William Gray, is a reserve police officer in Rigby, Idaho, according to the city’s police, who thanked Ms Wubbels for protecting his rights.
Mr Gray is a semi-trailer driver and was on the road when a ute fleeing from authorities slammed into him and his truck burst into flames, police reports say.