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It’s nothing short of a 9-1-1 nightmare, as an emergency dispatcher begs a nurse to perform CPR on a woman who wasn’t breathing and eventually died.

The nurse not only refused to perform the CPR, she also refused to hand the cell phone to anyone else to help the dying woman. Now, a criminal investigation is underway.

Authorities have just released the chilling audiotape of the 9-1-1 call, where 87-year-old Lorraine Bayless at the Glenwood Gardens Retirement Facility in Bakersfield, Calif.,  was passed out on the dining-room floor.

When the dispatcher asks, “Is she breathing?” the caller replies, “‘Is she breathing?’ Barely.”

When asked to perform CPR, the nurse can be heard saying, “Yeah, we can’t do CPR at this facility.”

The dispatcher then says, “OK, then hand the phone to the passerby. If you can’t do it, I need, hand it to the passerby, I’ll have her do it. Or if you’ve got any citizens there, I’ll have them do it.”

“No, no, it’s not,” the nurse says.

Complete audio of the 9-1-1 call can be heard here:

The dispatcher said, “Anybody there can do CPR. Give them the phone, please. … This woman’s not breathing enough. She’s going to die if we don’t get this started.”

With time a crucial factor, the female dispatcher tries desperately to convince the nurse to take action, lamenting, “I don’t understand why you’re not willing to help this patient. Is there anybody that works there that’s willing to do it?”

“We can’t do that,” the nurse says. “That’s what I’m trying to say.”

“Are we just going to let this lady die?” the dispatcher says.

“Well, that’s why we’re calling 9-1-1,” the nurse replies.

“Is there a gardener … any staff? Anybody that doesn’t work for you, anywhere?” the dispatcher asks.”Can we flag someone down in the street and get them to help this lady? As a human being, I don’t, you know, is there anybody that’s willing to help this lady and not let her die?”

The nurse replies, “Um, not at this time.”

It was too late to save Bayless by the time paramedics arrived.

According to the Associated Press, staff members are “required to perform and provide CPR” unless there’s a do-not-resuscitate order, said Greg Crist, a senior vice president at the American Health Care Association.

Bayless did not have such an order on file at the facility, Battalion Chief Anthony Galagaza of the Bakersfield Fire Department told AP. That’s when firefighters immediately began CPR, continuing until she reached the hospital.

“Our practice is to immediately call emergency medical personnel for assistance and to wait with the individual needing attention until such personnel arrives,” Jeffrey Toomer, executive director of Glenwood Gardens, said in a statement to NBC’s “Today” show. “That is the protocol we followed.”

Maribeth Bersani, of the Assisted Living Federation of America, told CBS News: “There’s no requirement that the people in the building be trained to perform CPR, so a company could state in a policy they don’t want anyone to initiate CPR.”

Bakersfield Police are handling the criminal probe, but so far have not come up with any charges.

Jack Ford, a legal analyst for CBS, called the scenario “morally reprehensible,” and said the question involves, “a legal responsibility and legal liability.”

Ford said: “What’s the agreement that this woman and her family had with this home, and … it was a residential facility, not a nursing home, assisted living. Very different if it was that. So if in their agreement they say specifically, ‘We do not provide emergency medical care. We will get somebody for you,’ then that could shield them from some problems. Then other question is, what are your reasonable expectations. When they sold this as a sales pitch, did they say, ‘Look, we have wonderful workout facilities, wonderful dining facilities and we have medical people on site here.’ Well, you know then, despite what might be in the agreement there, you have a reasonable expectation.”

As for the woman who refused to help, Ford said she was apparently told something as an employee.

“She may well be in a tough position,” he noted . “If she was told by her employers, ‘You cannot do this, if you do, you’re in violation, and you’ll lose your job.’ Now you have a woman being told, do I try to save someone’s life and by doing so, do I risk my own job for doing it. That’s why you have to look to the employers. The reality is, some states, you are starting to pass Good Samaritan laws that say you can’t be sued if you try to stop and help somebody, the reason is people sue you sometimes if you try to stop and help somebody. You have to look at the culture of society here, the litigious nature of society. It just – it’s a terrible tragedy.”

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