Video shows nurses laughing as dying WWII vet calls for help
Hidden camera footage recently made public revealed a decorated World War II veteran died after fighting for air while a pair of nurses laughed in front of him.
James Dempsey on Feb. 27, 2014, repeatedly called out to staff members at Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation before he fell unconscious, gasping for air all the while.
Nursing home staff found him unresponsive just before 5:30 a.m. and it took them nearly an hour to call 911, according to state records obtained by WXIA.
Dempsey’s family, who sued the facility in 2014, declined to comment, citing a settlement with the nursing home.
Former nursing supervisor Wanda Nuckles testified during the trial that she rushed to the 89-year-old veteran’s room when she learned he’d stopped breathing and performed chest compressions until help arrived.
Nuckles did not know she’d been filmed at the time and the clip directly contradicts her account, which she said was just “an honest mistake.”
Instead, the footage shows nursing staff repeatedly start and stop Dempsey’s chest compressions.
When the responding nurses struggled to get Dempsey’s oxygen machine to start, Nuckles can be heard laughing with them in the background.
“Ma’am was there something funny at the time?” Mike Prieto, the attorney for Dempsey’s family, questioned.
She responded: “I can’t even remember all that, as you can see.”
Retired nursing professor Elaine Harris identified several violations, including failure to respond, failure to assess and failure to act.
“In 43 years of nursing, I have never seen such disregard for human life in a health care setting,” she told the news station.
Attorneys representing the Atlanta nursing home attempted to block WXIA from releasing the footage, but in the end dropped its appeal with the Georgia State Supreme Court.
Both Nuckles and another nurse were fired, but not until nearly a year after the incident. And they only just turned in their licenses in September — nearly three years after Dempsey’s death.
A spokesperson for the Georgia Board of Nursing could not confirm when the state became aware of the video, but the board’s action did come on the heels of receiving a link to the video.
A spokesperson for the nursing home, owned by Sava Senior Care, in a statement wrote they were “saddened by the events which occurred three years ago” before going on to note it has “new leadership and the leadership team and the staff have worked very diligently to improve quality care and the quality of life for our residents.”