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Hidden Camera Shows WWII Veteran Dying While Staff Laughs at His Bedside

As part of an ongoing lawsuit against Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation, a video has recently been released that shows 89 year old James Dempsey taking his final breaths while nursing staff at the facility stand around and laugh. Dempsey, a World War II veteran, had paged for help 6 times before a member of the nursing staff came to his aid. The video was not discovered until after the facility’s nursing supervisor, Wanda Nuckles, gave a 6 hour deposition detailing the care she gave Mr. Dempsey as he lay dying.  In her deposition, Ms. Nuckles described starting CPR as soon as a fellow nurse informed her that Mr. Dempsey was in distress. She says she started chest compressions and continued until paramedics arrived. Records showed that 911 was not called until 58 minutes after Mr. Dempsey had already died.

Video Shows Careless Staff Members
The video camera was installed by Mr. Dempsey’s family members and based on the cruel behavior of staff members, the presence of the camera was unknown.

The video shows Mr. Dempsey laying in his bed attempting to yell “help me…I can’t breathe” while pressing his nurse call button at least 6 times.  Ms. Nuckles, the nursing supervisor, enters his room with another Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehab staff member and casually lowers the bed and adjusts his bedsheet while Mr. Dempsey lies motionless.  Ms. Nuckles testified in a deposition that she immediately took over CPR from another staff member, something she says she continued until emergency personnel arrived. When called out on the discrepancy between the video and her testimony, Ms. Nuckles describes her lie as “an honest mistake.”

The video also reveals that no one attempted to check Mr. Dempsey’s vital signs, a clear violation of the standard of care, and that while attempting to place an oxygen mask on Mr. Dempsey, three staff members, including Ms. Nuckles, began laughing uncontrollably.

Georgia’s 11 Alive News reached out to retired nursing professor and adult critical care expert Elaine Harris, who said “In 43 years in nursing, I have never seen such disregard for human life in a healthcare setting.”

Nurses Able to Keep Licenses for 3 years After Incident
11 Alive also has reported that despite Mr. Dempsey’s dying in 2014 and the video being discovered in 2015, the nurses were not fired until 10 months after the video was shown to the nursing home’s management.

It suspiciously was just a short time between when 11 Alive sent Georgia Board of Nursing staff a link to the video and when the nurses in question were forced to surrender their licenses to the state. 11 Alive is responsible for making the video public, after fighting the nursing home in state court and ultimately  Georgia’s supreme court, arguing that the public deserved to know what had happened at the facility.

Video Laws in Nursing Homes
Georgia law is not entirely black and white when it comes to cameras in nursing homes. State law says that a camera cannot be placed in a private area without the consent of all parties who may be recorded. There is a home security exception that allows residents to record in their own homes. Whether this applies to residents living in nursing homes remains to be seen. The video may be able to change and clearly define the law regarding recording in nursing home rooms in Georgia.

Here in Illinois, cameras are allowed in nursing homes, but there must be signage that indicates video recording is in progress and there must be consent from a resident’s roommate (if applicable).

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