Suicide Turned Negligence: Stereotypes, Death, & Court

by Nursetopia on April 13, 2011

I cannot shake a recent article from my thoughts.

Daniel Iverson, a homeless man and frequent visitor to the ER, enters and tells the triage nurse he hates his life and he’s ingested a fatal amount of morphine. She does her duty, checking his abnormal vitals and triaging him as “emergent.” What happens next is horrifying and all-too-common in the nursing profession. Other nurses discount Daniel’s story and berate the triage nurse for believing him.

It is not easy to fake a low blood pressure and increasing heart rate; Daniel left the ER that night only to be found dead the next morning. An autopsy confirmed Daniel died from an overdose of morphine and alcohol. And when the ER triage nurse brought the situation into the light, she was fired. Of course, the hospital says she was fired for unrelated reasons. Sure she was. Needless to say, lawsuits are ensuing.

So unfortunate. Why? Why did this happen? Because nurses stopped caring. They let their own biases of the subjective assessment overpower the objective assessment. Professional surrendered to personal. They let the stereotype of homelessness prevail, and in the process they reinforced the stereotype of lateral violence within the nursing profession – that nurses eat their own.

I have thought about the ER triage nurse a lot, but I keep thinking about Daniel, about his life, about his death. The ER had become his refuge, his escape. He may have, indeed, been drug-seeking most of the time, but when he needed care the most, when he needed nurses the most, we failed him. Fatally.

Rest in peace, Daniel.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jody Schoger April 13, 2011 at 5:23 pm

When we stop seeing people, but only see conditions or labels, homeless, crazy, drug-seeking …this is what happens.

Thanks for a sobering post,
jms

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