A Utah nurse and a video of her run-in with police at the hospital over a blood draw is now putting patient privacy into the spotlight. We’re learning the patient the nurse was protecting is a man from Rigby, Idaho. Bill Gray is a truck driver and reserve officer for the Rigby Police Department.
Rigby’s Police Chief Sam Tower says Gray is still in critical condition at the University of Utah Hospital after the semi-truck he was driving was hit head-on by another vehicle. Hours after that crash, police body cameras captured video, now seen by thousands around the country, of a nurse refusing to allow a Salt Lake City Police officer to draw Gray’s blood because he was unconscious.
It’s because of this incident the University of Utah Hospital is now making changes.
“Our care nurses and staff will not be the first point of contact with law enforcement,” CEO Gordon Crabtree said.
Chief Tower took to social media over the weekend to applaud the nurse for her actions.
“The Rigby Police Department would like to thank the nurse involved and hospital staff for standing firm, and protecting Officer Gray's rights as a patient and victim,” Chief Tower posted on the department’s Facebook page.
It’s prompted many to ask, can law enforcement come into a hospital and take your blood without permission or a warrant?
The short answer is no. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that a blood sample cannot be taken without patient consent or a warrant.
“The biggest concern is privacy. In the context of a criminal investigation you also have the protections of the Fourth Amendment, which generally require a warrant before law enforcement can obtain information,” associate law professor at the University of Idaho Shaakirrah Sanders said.
Sanders says there is an exception where law enforcement doesn’t have to have a warrant.
“Is an emergency exception, an exigency. This idea that there's a real concern that the evidence could be lost,” Sanders said. “You still have to be able to show facts that there's some type of emergency."
Law enforcement also must have probably cause, which Chief Tower says officers in Salt Lake City did not have as Gray was never under any suspicion or wrongdoing in the crash; he was hit by a driver fleeing the Utah State Highway Patrol.
Sanders believes had the nurse released the blood to the officers, the nurse and the hospital could be held liable.
“There could have been a lot of repercussions that the hospital could have faced, she personally could have faced, and against that law enforcement agency,” Sanders said.
Family and friends have set up a GoFundMe account to help Officer Gray and his family as he remains hospitalized.
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