Nurse says she was unlawfully arrested for refusing blood test on unconscious patient

SALT LAKE CITY (CNN/AP) – A Utah police officer’s body camera video shows a hospital nurse being handcuffed after refusing to draw blood on an unconscious patient.

The incident began when a truck driver was severely burned in a head-on crash with a vehicle that was fleeing from police in Cache County and crossed into on-coming traffic. The driver of the fleeing vehicle was killed.

The truck driver was sedated and in a comatose state when he arrived at the hospital.

Jeff Payne, a veteran Salt Lake police officer, was sent to the hospital by another police agency to get vials of blood for the investigation. But because the patient was not a suspect in the crash nor faced potential criminal charges, because he was unconscious and unable to give consent, and because the officer did not have a warrant, charge nurse Alex Wubbels — one of the supervisors that night — did not allow him to draw blood.

The video taken at University Hospital in Salt Lake City shows Wubbels calmly explaining to Payne that she couldn’t draw blood on a patient who had been injured in a car accident. She told the officer a patient was required to give consent for a blood sample or be under arrest. Otherwise, she said police needed a warrant.

“I was just trying to do it the right way,” Wubbels told Fox 13. “If they need blood they need to go through the proper channels.”

In the body camera video, Wubbels is seen on her phone with numerous supervisors advising them of what was happening and getting confirmation about the policy. Payne sounds impatient in the video and continues to threaten to arrest her.

Wubbels, who is surrounded by other hospital staffers, explains in the video that she is doing what her bosses told her to do. She eventually prints out a copy of the policy for blood draws — one that Salt Lake police agreed to more than a year ago, according to Porter — and shows it to the officer.

Wubbels said close to 10 supervisors were consulted either directly by herself or by the supervisors checking with their own superiors.

But Payne insists he, too, is following orders.

“I’m doing what I’m being told by my boss, and I’m going to do what my boss says,” Payne says sternly at one point in the recording.

Wubbels can be seen trying to tell Payne to calm down while telling her boss on the phone that Payne was threatening to arrest her, and that a University of Utah police officer who was present wasn’t going to stop him.

“She’s going to jail,” Payne says in the video.

“Why?” a hospital staff member asks.

“Interfering with a criminal investigation,” Payne replies.

At one point, Wubbels is heard telling her supervisor that she does not feel safe, before telling Payne, “I don’t know why you’re being threatening.”

“Sir, you’re making a huge mistake right now,” a supervisor is heard telling Payne right before he places Wubbels in handcuffs.

“I just feel betrayed, I feel angry. I feel a lot of things. And I am still confused. I’m a health care worker. The only job I have is to keep my patients safe. A blood draw, it just gets thrown around there like it’s some simple thing. But blood is your blood. That’s your property. And when a patient comes in in a critical state, that blood is extremely important and I don’t take it lightly,” she said.

The dispute ended with Payne telling the nurse she was under arrest and physically moving her out of the hospital while she screamed for the officer to stop.

“Stop! I’ve done nothing wrong,” Wubbels cries out as she’s being handcuffed. “This is unnecessary.”

“Please sir, you are hurting me,” Wubbels can be heard saying in the video.

“Then walk,” ordered the officer.

Wubbels’ attorney Karra Porter said the incident amounted to unlawful assault and unlawful arrest.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports Wubbels was not charged.

Porter said what is just as disturbing are comments caught on Payne’s body camera video while he was talking to another officer. Payne can be heard talking about his other job as an ambulance driver, and how Wubbels’ arrest might affect that.

“I’ll bring ’em all the transients and take the good patients elsewhere,” he is heard saying about the hospital.

“Even if he’s joking, this is not funny,” Porter said. “I mean, there are so many things wrong with that statement I can’t even begin.”

The University of Utah Hospital said they stand behind their nurse.

“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,” the hospital said in a statement.

The Salt Lake City Police Department has viewed the body cam video and started an internal affairs investigation into the arresting officer. The police department has also ordered more training for officers who work with medical providers.

“We were alarmed and immediately took action,” said Sgt. Brandon Shearer of the Salt Lake City Police Department. “We’ve looked at our policies and we want to take steps to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”

Payne remains on duty as the investigation continues.

Watch the full body camera video below:

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