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A recent Supreme Court ruling allows police to obtain blood draws from unconscious drunk driving suspects.1
“When a law enforcement officer requests a blood draw of a drunk driving suspect, ethical considerations include balancing the suspect’s expectation of privacy against the public’s safety,” says Anne M. Brendel, JD, an attorney with Buchalter Law Firm specializing in healthcare law and regulatory matters. Policies should be updated and modified regularly, particularly in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision, Brendel advises.
“Hospitals may wish to consult an ethicist, along with an attorney, to determine the appropriate policies and procedures based on the applicable ethical and legal concerns,” she adds.
Ethics should be proactive in this regard. “Given that blood alcohol content steadily diminishes over time, it’s important that hospital policies and procedures are clear on the front end,” Brendel stresses. Less confusion arises if staff are trained to act promptly in the event a police officer requests a blood draw on any patient.
“Waiting for an ethics consult until after a law enforcement officer requests a blood draw could cause a delay in action — and the loss of valuable evidence,” Brendel notes.
Financial Disclosure: Physician Editor Arthur R. Derse, MD, JD, Nurse Planner Susan Solverson, RN, BSN, CMSRN, Editor Jonathan Springston, Editor Jill Drachenberg, Editorial Group Manager Leslie Coplin, Accreditations Manager Amy M. Johnson, MSN, RN, CPN, and Author Stacey Kusterbeck report no consultant, stockholder, speakers’ bureau, research, or other financial relationships with companies having ties to this field of study.