Mark Meets World: Utah nurse defends patient’s rights

Mark Feuerborn

Social media was ablaze the week of Aug. 28 as police body-cam footage was released of a volatile encounter in the University of Utah hospital between law enforcement and a member of the nursing staff.

The video revealed a situation from July 26, where police asked nurse Alex Wubbels to collect and turn over a blood sample from an unconscious patient. Wubbels refused, citing that it is illegal to draw blood from an unconscious patient without their prior consent or a warrant. This resulted in an officer arresting Wubbels and accusing her of impeding an investigation. Following a terse struggle, Wubbels was placed in the officer’s car. Readers are encouraged to seek the original video out and judge the incident for themselves, as words do not replicate the horrific scene’s impact.

Thankfully, Wubbels was not charged with any crime. The officers involved were placed on paid administrative leave and the University of Utah Hospital announced Sept. 5 that its policy now bans officers from interacting with nurses in a patient care environment.

It goes without saying that Wubbels did the right thing defending both her hospital’s policy and a patient’s legal rights. Upon further research, the officers’ request seems completely pointless and unethical, and their response to Wubbels seems barbaric.

The patient that police requested a blood draw from was a truck driver who was struck by another driver who was fleeing police. The fleeing driver was killed in the crash, and the other truck driver was severely injured. For the officers on the scene to demand a blood draw from an innocent bystander as part of an investigation is completely unnecessary.

Additionally, Wubbels never spoke in a hostile manner, but calmly explained that she was not about to break the law per the officers’ request. The arresting officer, in this author’s opinion, was entirely responsible for perpetrating the chaotic and unnecessary incident that followed his angry response of handcuffs. He belittled this nurse, her defense of an American’s rights and disrupted the work of every other medical worker in that area who may have been in the process of saving lives. The University of Utah Hospital’s policy change in response was entirely appropriate.

American police serve an important role in our society. They protect the public from danger and serve justice to those who violate the law. That said, these officers who arrested Wubbels made the jobs of good, upstanding officers that much more difficult. It is hard for the public to feel safe around their police force when a video arises of officers trying to circumvent a patient’s rights and also crack down in a totalitarian fashion on any who oppose this abuse.

The takeaway must be this: Know the rights that every American has, and thank your local nurse for doing his or her job to defend you when you are unable. Your medical records are private information, and nurses like Wubbels are tasked every day with caring for you and determining who receives this precious personal data. They work long hours doing so, often without appreciation, but when a nurse is in an extreme situation where they have to be put in handcuffs for you, something needs to change.