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A dining room at Glenwood Gardens, the "prestigious" independent living facility in Bakersfield, CA.

A dining room at Glenwood Gardens, the “prestigious” independent living facility in Bakersfield, CA.

On February 26, a woman as yet identified only as Colleen called 911 to report a medical emergency in Bakersfield, CA. Colleen is the resident services director at Glenwood Gardens, an independent living facility, and one of her residents, 87-year-old Lorraine Bayless, had just collapsed. Bayless was flat out on a dining room floor, hardly breathing, when 911 dispatcher Tracey Halvorson picked up the line.

NBC affiliate KGET-TV 17, in its coverage of what happened next, has referred to Glenwood Gardens as one of Kearn County’s “most prestigious retirement communities,” a community which, per its own listing at SeniorHousingNet.com, provides “exceptional senior living”.

That in addition to exceptional senior dying, it would seem, since Colleen effectively killed Mrs. Bayless last Tuesday by refusing to administer CPR, a refusal subsequently endorsed by Colleen’s employer.

In a statement issued today, Glenwood pointed out that it is “an independent living facility, which by law is not licensed to provide medical care to any of its residents.” Reading between the lines … “and therefore isn’t required to provide such care and therefore won’t provide such care, because its attorneys have advised it that doing so might expose it to liability that it would prefer to avoid.”

Regardless of Glenwood’s policy, regardless of the unreliable protection afforded do-gooders by Good Samaritan laws, it seems to me that Colleen might have found some way to help Bayless, who had no DNR order on file. Listen to these excerpts from the resident services director’s seven-minute conversation with the 911 dispatcher and try to imagine what it must be like to live and die by the letter of a policy manual.

Without question, we spend way-hay-hay too much time and energy postponing physical death, but that’s a topic for another day. I mention it here only because I don’t want to give the impression that I condemn Glenwood Gardens for having allowed someone to die. If Bayless and her daughter, who has said that she’s satisfied with the care her mother received, had an informal understanding and if Glenwood informally honored that understanding, no harm, no foul. Bravo, in fact.

And maybe that’s exactly what happened.

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Play 911 clip
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On the other hand, maybe Mrs. Bayless was looking forward to playing canasta this weekend and maybe Colleen is every bit the soulless functionary that she appears to be. Maybe her employer is an equally soulless money machine that will defend what some might consider a clear-cut case of negligent homicide by invoking laws that it helped to write.

That would be problematic, don’t you think?

Exceptional senior living, indeed.