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Paramedics Under Investigation After Not Resuscitating 71-Year-Old Woman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Six members of the Maplewood Fire Department are on paid administrative leave while the city investigates their decision to stop resuscitating a dying woman.

The 71-year-old woman was a resident at the Good Samaritan Society nursing home. When she became ill, staff started CPR until Maplewood paramedics arrived and took over.

Her husband asked them to stop. They did, and the woman died minutes later.

A complaint forced an investigation into the incident.

Investigators say what the paramedics did is not considered criminal, and they have not been charged with a crime.

The question is: Did they violate policy or law by stopping a lifesaving rescue that had already been initiated by nursing home staff?

The police report outlines what happened on Aug. 7 inside the nursing home.

Linda Sandhei fell ill and staff members began CPR immediately and called for help.

Maplewood paramedics arrived.

They got a pulse and got ready to rush her to the hospital when the patient's husband told them to stop and allow his wife to die.

Sandhei suffered from Parkinson's disease for 21 years and had been in failing health for a month.

"The core question was: Was there a legal obligation to provide care and were there any violations of Minnesota law relative to not providing care in this given situation?" said Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell.

He says police had an obligation to determine if there was a need for a criminal investigation into the matter.

"There was no indication that there was any criminal intent. They acted in good faith to respond to the wishes of the family," Schnell said.

It was learned later that Sandhei's husband did have medical power of attorney.

But a document – the Provider Order of Life-Sustaining Treatment – is what first responders are required to look to for guidance.

"It is a doctor's order, because the emergency medical responders, without a doctor's orders, they cannot stop using the protocol that they must follow.
Unfortunately, if they don't follow that protocol, then the case is under scrutiny and review," said Dr. Jeffery Rubins, the director of Palliative Medicine at Hennepin County Medical Center.

Rubins says family members should have the difficult talk to decide the wishes of an elderly or sick loved one.

A do not resuscitate order must be signed by a doctor and placed in an area where paramedics can see it in the event of a situation.

Maplewood has an outside agency looking into this recent incident.

The paramedics will remain on paid administrative leave until the investigation is complete.

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