When nurse Alex Wubbels, of the University of Utah Hospital, refused to allow police officers to draw blood from her patient she was manhandled and forcibly arrested. Police body camera footage of the incident went viral and caused outrage across the world. On October 31 it was announced that Wubbels had agreed to a $500,000 out of court settlement, part of which she plans to donate.

The video footage of the July 25 arrest was released by Wubbels’ attorney on August 31 and went viral as it sparked worldwide outrage. The footage, which starts in the nursing unit, shows Wubbels politely explaining to the police officers, from a hospital policy document, that she couldn’t allow them to draw a blood sample. There was no warrant for a blood sample, the patient was not under arrest and was unable to give consent as he was unconscious. The patient had been burnt over half his body in a fiery head-on collision between his truck and the pick-up of a man who was fleeing from the Utah Highway Patrol.

The footage goes on to show Detective Jeff Payne suddenly exclaiming that he was arresting Wubbels. When she tried to get away while crying out that she had done nothing wrong Payne chased and grabbed at her. The hospital security officers, to whom Wubbels turned for help, appeared to be assisting the police officers while they manhandled her to get the handcuffs on. She was then made to sit in a police car outside the hospital for 20 minutes after which she was released without any charges being filed.

Salt Lake City and the University of Utah Hospital will each pay half of the $500,000 settlement that was agreed to. During the press conference at which the settlement was announced, Wubbels explained that she would donate a portion of the settlement money to help people obtain body camera footage of incidents in which they were involved and her attorney’s law firm, Christensen & Jensen, would provide free legal services needed to obtain the videos. “No matter how truthful I was in telling my story, it was nothing compared to what people saw, and the visceral reaction people experienced when watching the footage of the experience that I went through,” said Wubbels. She also plans to become actively involved in the #EndNurseAbuse campaign by the American Nurses Association and wants to make a donation to the Utah Nurses Association.

“When this whole venture started with Alex Wubbels, she had five goals. First, after this happened, she wanted changes to policy. Second, she wanted to see accountability from those who were involved in the incident. Third, she wanted to start a public discussion, particularly about the urgent need for body cameras. Fourth, I told Alex she should expect to be compensated. And fifth, she wanted to help others – other nurses and other people who have these types of situations happen to them,” explained Karra Porter, Wubbels’ attorney, at the press conference. “I can now announce that all five of these goals have been met.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Changes in hospital policy at the University of Utah Hospital were decided on within two weeks of the incident and officially announced early in September. Law enforcement officers will, in future, be required to interact only with health supervisors and those interactions would not be allowed to take place in patient care areas.

Two separate investigations found that the police officers responsible for the incident had violated a number of policies. Payne has since been dismissed, and Lt James Tracy was demoted. Both these men have appealed their punishment. At the press conference, Wubbels said that she hopes the disciplinary measures would be upheld and that she would be very disappointed if they weren’t. The hospital security officers were also found to have acted inappropriately by not intervening on Wubbels behalf. According to the University Police Chief Dale Brophy, the incident was thoroughly debriefed to ensure that a similar incident would never happen again and hospital officials would be provided with additional de-escalation training.

ADVERTISEMENT
Frieda Paton, M.Cur, RN
Frieda Paton is a registered nurse with a Master’s degree in nursing education. Her passion for nursing education, nursing issues and advocacy for the profession were ignited while she worked as an education officer, and later editor, at a national nurses’ association. This passion, together with interest in health and wellness education since her student days, stayed with her throughout her further career as a nurse educator and occupational health nurse. Having reached retirement age, she continues to contribute to the profession as a full-time freelance writer. In the news and feature articles she writes for Nurseslabs, she hopes to inspire nursing students and nurses on the job to reflect on the trends and issues that affect their profession and communities - and play their part in advocacy wherever they find themselves.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here