Nurse arrested for refusing to give patient's blood to police
A Utah nurse who refused to give a patient's blood to police — and then was handcuffed and carried into a patrol car in an escalating incident.
A Utah nurse who refused to give a patient's blood to police — and then was handcuffed and carried into a patrol car in an escalating incident — held an emotional news conference Thursday demanding better training by law enforcement.
"I just feel betrayed, I feel angry, I feel a lot of things," said Alex Wubbels, a nurse at the University of Utah Hospital and a former Olympic athlete, as she wiped away tears.
"And I am still confused. I'm a health care worker," she added. "The only job I have is to keep my patients safe."
The July 26 encounter at the Salt Lake City hospital — in which Wubbels pleaded, "Stop! I've done nothing wrong!" — has prompted an internal police investigation.
Police bodycam videos released during Wubbels' news conference showed the officer — later identified as Det. Jeff Payne — growing increasingly impatient as she tried to explain, according to hospital protocol, why she couldn't draw an unconscious patient's blood for a police investigation.
She told the officers gathered in the middle of the hospital's work area that they need either an electronic warrant, patient consent or to be placing the patient under arrest if they want access to his blood.
The patient had been a driver in an earlier truck crash, and was badly burned and comatose at the hospital, reported NBC affiliate KSL-TV. Vials of his blood were needed as part of the investigation to determine whether the patient had illicit substances in his system at the time of the crash, according to a written report obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune.
In the videos, which may have been edited, Wubbels holds her ground about drawing blood. Payne then suddenly snapped.
"No, we're done," he said. "You're under arrest, we're going!"
He is seen pulling her arms behind her and places handcuffs around her wrists before yanking her to the back of the patrol car. He said she obstructed justice.
"Please sir, you're hurting me," Wubbels said.
"Then walk," Payne responded.
Wubbels, from inside the car, screamed for help and that "I did nothing wrong!"
Other officers from the University of Utah and the Department of Public Safety, which provide security for the hospital, did not intervene during the arrest, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Wubbels was later released and no criminal charges were filed against her.
Payne, who remains on active duty with Salt Lake City police but has been suspended from the blood draw program, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A Salt Lake City police spokeswoman said the department has been working closely with the hospital to ensure such actions never happen again and that it is alarmed by what occurred.
Officers have been briefed about the law for drawing blood and on policy, training and actions, she added.
An internal affairs investigation remains ongoing.
Wubbels, a nurse at the University of Utah Hospital since 2009, was also an Alpine skier at the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics. She said she has watched the video a few times since the incident and still becomes emotional.
Ultimately, she wants police to understand that blood is a person's property — and it can't be taken by force.
"This was not peaceful. This was not even civil," Wubbels said. "So at the very least, there needs to be some significant discussion about what their duties are to society."
The incident was condemned as "outrageous" by National Nurses United, the country's largest nursing union.
"As the videos and news accounts make clear, there is no excuse for this assault, or her arrest, which sends a chilling message about the safety of nurses and the rights of patients," said Jean Ross, the group's co-president.