Murder charges have been filed in the case of hidden camera video that recorded nurses laughing while WWII veteran was dying. In Dekalb County, GA, a grand jury has indicted two nurses and an aide on charges that included felony murder. Investigations have been ongoing since the video was released in November 2017; the video showed the 89-year old patient James Dempsey first calling for help six times before becoming unconscious, and 8 minutes passed before a staff first responded to his calls.
The video was recorded in 2014 by a hidden camera placed in the patient’s room by his family. While at first the video was kept sealed, a Dekalb County judge ruled to overrule and release the video. In a court deposition, a former nursing supervisor for the facility, Wanda Nuckles explained how she had rushed to Dempsey’s room when another nurse made her aware of his condition. The attorney for the family, Mike Prieto questioned Nuckles in court last year and her responses contradict almost entirely what was shown in the video.
“From the time you came in, you took over doing chest compressions…correct?”
Wanda Nuckles responded: “Yes.”
Mike Prieto (the family’s attorney) “Until the time paramedics arrive, you were giving CPR continuously?”
The video did not show Wanda Nuckles or anyone else performing CPR when she entered the room. In the court deposition, Nuckles called this an “honest mistake” and that she was “doing everything based on what I normally do.” Nearly 1 hour passed before staff called 911. When the nurses could not get the oxygen machine working, the video shows them laughing. The Georgia Board announced that Wanda Nuckles and Loyce Pickquet Agyeman surrendered their licenses in September 2017.
Loyce Pickquet Agyeman is charged with felony murder and neglect to an elderly. Nuckles is charged with depriving an elder person of essential services, and Mable Turman, a CNA was charged with neglect to an elder person, while all three were also charged with a single count of concealing the death of another.
WXIA-TV said records showed continued problems, including $813,000 in Medicare fines since 2015. It said the nursing home got a good inspection report in May, but still has Medicare's lowest score, a one-star rating.
The issue of placing cameras in patient care areas is a complex subject because of the possibility of HIPAA violations, but a nursing home may be viewed differently because patients in nursing homes, partly because a nursing home room can be considered a residence. Placing cameras in your residence, as long as no other patient’s privacy is being compromised may be ruled as an exception. Again, this is a complex subject, and nursing homes may claim it is infringing on staff’s privacy. But, such as the case of James Dempsey, do you think the nursing home will turn around and file a lawsuit against the family, and an attorney would fight back enforcing the eavesdropping statute?
There are a few states that actually allow cameras to be placed in nursing home rooms legally, and Illinois, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico has bills that allow nursing home resident’s rooms to be monitored. As a nurse, I do not consent to be recorded and do not believe it should be allowed to happen in a patient care setting, not because I want to hide anything, so it's always good to familiarize yourself with your workplace’s policy on video recording in public and patient care areas. In regards to the Dempsey case, and the video released, deemed legal evidence by the court, as a nurse, I am disgusted by the actions, or lack thereof, of these former nurses and healthcare professionals.
If you suspect your loved one is being abused or neglected, there are ways to ensure an investigation is taking place. There is the ombudsman program, for the sole investigatory purpose they can question, go on scene, and investigate whichever claims you present to them. Also, you can contact your local Adult Protective Services and Department of Community Health or any available healthcare facility regulatory agencies in your state.
The Dude Nurse
Klaus Campos, BSN-RN