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University's nurse lies to student that it's 'too late to abort'.

CASE ON POINT: Nelson v. Regents of UC, 2004 WL 339340--CA

ISSUE: You are a nurse employed by a prestigious university. An 18-year-old student, who is 24 weeks pregnant comes to you stating that she wants an abortion. After confirming the facts, you falsely advise her that it is "too late to abort" and that the pregnancy is "too advanced to terminate." To compound matters, you learn that a colleague is anxious to adopt a baby. Your supervisor, learning of the student's situation, admonishes you not to become involved in arranging for adoption of the baby. Despite this, you give the student your colleague's name, and telephone number as someone interested in adopting her baby. After the baby is born, your colleague takes the baby home from the hospital. Later, however, the student decides to rescind her consent to the adoption. When your supervisor learns of this, she advises you that your conduct was not only insubordinate, but created a conflict of interest and exposed your employer to liability. Despite this, you tell her that you would not hesitate to make such referrals in the future. What do you think would happen to you?

CASE FACTS: On December 11, 1996, Wendy Nelson, a nurse who was employed by the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) examined Student X at the university health clinic and found that she was approximately 24 weeks pregnant. Student X expressed her intention to terminate her pregnancy. The following day, Nurse Nelson learned that a co-worker, JoAnne Santangelo, wanted to adopt a baby. That day, Nurse Nelson told Student X that her pregnancy was "too advanced to terminate." At Student X's next visit to the clinic, Nurse Nelson gave her Santangelo's name and telephone number as "someone interested in adopting her baby." Nurse Nelson did not document this referral in the student's chart or disclose it to her supervisor when the supervisor specifically asked her about the patient. Before Nurse Nelson gave Student X Santagelo's name, her supervisor learned that Nurse Nelson might be considering doing so and directed her not to provide the information to the student. The supervisor explained that giving the patient such information was "unethical" and created a "conflict of interest." When Nurse Nelson's supervisor learned that Santangelo had taken Student X's baby home, she asked Nurse Nelson about her involvement in the planned adoption. Nurse Nelson stated that she gave the patient Santangelo's name. Nurse Nelson's supervisor told her that her conduct was "insubordinate," "created a conflict of interest and exposed UCSD to liability." After an investigation by the director of student health services, Nurse Nelson was notified of the university's intention to dismiss her. She requested a pre-termination hearing. A hearing was held. It was attended by Nurse Nelson and her California Nurses Association (CNA) union representative. After the hearing, the director of Student Health Services concluded that dismissal was warranted. Nurse Nelson requested a "post-deprivation" hearing. The day before the hearing was scheduled, Nurse Nelson's CNA representative sent a letter to the university "canceling" the hearing. Two reasons were given: (1) UCSD's notice to witnesses to be called was provided only 24 hours before the hearing and (2) the lack of the right to subpoena witnesses. UCSD informed the representative that the hearing would proceed as scheduled. The hearing was held in Nurse Nelson's absence. The hearing officer concluded that Nurse Nelson was properly dismissed. She brought suit against UCSD alleging breach of contract and tort causes of action. UCSD moved for summary judgment. In the interim, Nurse Nelson sought to amend her claim to add a petition for a writ of administrative mandamus and a Civil Rights Action under 42 US Code, Section 1983. UCSD objected. The Superior Court of San Diego County ruled that the request to add a petition for administrative mandamus was barred by laches. The court granted UCSD's motion for summary judgment. Nurse Nelson appealed.

COURT'S OPINION: The Court of Appeal of California affirmed the judgment of the trial court. It found no merit in the denial of the petition for administrative mandamus.

LEGAL COMMENTARY: The conduct of the nurse in this case was reprehensible. She lied and deceived the student as to her option to have an abortion. As far as the university is concerned, she failed to adhere to the admonitions of her supervisor "before and after" the fact. It appears that justice was done in this case, albeit for reasons other than the highly unethical, deceitful, and despicable conduct of the nurse.

Meet the Editor & Publisher: A. David Tammalleo, JD. is a nationally recognized authority on health care law. Practicing law for over 40 years, he concentrates in health care law with the Providence, R.I., firm of A. David Tammalleo & Associates. He has presented seminars on medical, nursing and hospital law throughout the United States. In addition to his writings as Editor of Medical Law's, Nursing Law's & Hospital Law's Reagan Reports, his legal articles have been published in the most prestigious health law journals. A prolific writer, his thousands of articles, as well as his achievements as an attorney and lecturer, have won him recognition in Martindale-Hubbale's Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, Marquis Who's Who in American Law, and Who's Who in America.
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Title Annotation:Nursing Law Case of the Month
Author:Tammelleo, A. David
Publication:Nursing Law's Regan Report
Date:Mar 1, 2004
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