Television news reporters, television commentators, newspaper journalists, and ordinary people continue to vilify Salt Lake City Police Detective Jeff Payne, for his arrest of a hospital emergency room nurse after her continued refusal to collect a blood sample from a patient.
In my previous blog post, I explained that it has been the practice of hospitals and law enforcement in the United States for the past 50 years, to obtain blood samples from drivers involved in fatal vehicle accidents. Unlike suspicion of DUI cases, where drivers commonly refuse a breathalyzer test or a blood draw, many states require mandatory blood draws from drivers involved in fatal vehicle accidents, because it is a homicide/manslaughter investigation.
In collecting evidence for a vehicular homicide/manslaughter investigation, time is of the essence in collecting a blood sample. The blood sample needs to be taken as soon as possible following the accident, in order to determine the presence and blood level of alcohol, legal drugs, or illegal drugs.
Following a fatal vehicle accident, it is likely that there will be both a criminal court case and a civil court case. In a court case, both the innocence or guilt of each driver involved, could hinge on the results of the blood tests. In other words, the patient that the hospital emergency room nurse refused to draw blood from, his innocence might only have been proved by the blood sample that she refused to take.
Part of what I wrote in my previous blog post was, that you can not have emergency room nurses trying to discern in their own mind, how evidence is going to be collected, how the vehicle accident is going to be investigated, the guilt or innocence of the patient, and the legality of police procedure. Who is the appropriate person to make decisions on the collection of evidence, a police detective with 20 to 30 years of experience in collecting evidence, or an emergency room nurse with 0 years of work experience collecting evidence?
Would it be appropriate for the police detective to direct the emergency room nurse on what kind of pain medication should be administered, what IV solution should be administered, to take X-Rays, to take a CT-scan, to put the patient on oxygen? No? Why wouldn’t it be appropriate for the police detective to tell the nurse how to do her job? It would not be appropriate for the police detective to tell the nurse how to medically treat the patient, or interfere with how she decided to medically treat the patient, because the nurse has much more education, training, and work experience in medical treatment, than the police detective.
Conversely, the nurse should not be trying to direct police procedure. The police detective knows things that the nurse doesn’t know, and we don’t know. Besides the police detective knowing that the patient’s innocence might depend on obtaining the patient’s blood sample, there are other things the police detective might know, that the nurse doesn’t know. There are hundreds of possibilities that the nurse does not know.
Was there an illegal narcotic or alcohol discovered at the scene of the commercial truck accident that were collected as evidence, and it must now be determined that the commercial truck driver was not impaired. Was there more than enough time for the commercial truck driver to avoid the collision, but he did not? Was the truck driver traveling at an unusually high speed or low speed? Was the truck driver currently suspended from driving because of a DUI? There hundreds of reasons why the police detective wanted to make sure to get the hospital patient’s blood sample, that the emergency room nurse did not know.
What would not be very commendable, would be a police detective who gave up, and left the hospital without getting the commercial truck driver’s blood sample, because it was too much trouble.
I am very disappointed that no experienced medical doctor, experienced emergency room nurse, knowledgeable attorney, or law enforcement expert, has not vehemently explained to the media and corrected the media, that for many years, and in many states blood draws are mandatory for drivers involved in fatal vehicle accidents. Consent does not have to be granted, and a warrant does not have to be obtained. The blood sample is used both to prove the innocence of the drivers, or possible guilt. It is a vehicular homicide investigation or manslaughter investigation, not a DUI case.
A fifty year old police detective, with 20 to 30 years of law enforcement experience, should not have to debate, argue, and plead his case with an emergency room nurse in order to get a blood draw from a patient. The hospital had already taken a blood draw from the patient for their own tests and analysis. The nurse could have documented that she refused to collect the blood sample, but did so under duress. The hospital could have taken legal action afterwards.
The police detective tried to resolve the dispute over the nurse’s refusal to collect blood from the patient, for one hour. The police detective was frustrated that it came to the point that he had to arrest the nurse for her continued refusal to draw blood, this is what his supervisor instructed him to do. What added to the police detective’s frustration, was the nurse trying to get away, struggle against being handcuffed, and screaming, “Stop, stop, what are you doing! Why are you doing this to me!”
I believe that it is people’s hatred of law enforcement that makes them express outrage over Detective Payne. The police detective did not use excessive force, or harm the nurse in any way. The police detective did not use angry language, threatening language, or abusive language at any time.
I think that it was wrong for the Chief of Police and the Mayor of Salt Lake City to not say, “We are going to determine whether the law in Utah currently requires mandatory blood draws in fatal vehicle accidents. Mandatory blood draws have been the procedure in place for many years. Though the arrest of emergency room nurse Alex Wubbel was regrettable and something we never want to happen, the police detective involved may have been carrying out orders from his supervisor, which may or may not have been a correct application of the laws regarding interference with a police investigation. We will look into this matter with the hospital, and inform the public as to our findings once all the facts have been examined.”