March 8, 2006
Boot-Camp Nurse Failed Young Victim
OUR OPINION: SUSPENSION NEEDED UNTIL STATE PROBE IS COMPLETED
Anyone who has ever received the tender
ministrations of a nurse in a time of distress knows that nurses are
vital to the healing process -- and indispensable to the practice of
medicine. Unfortunately, nurse Kristin Anne Schmidt, who watched in
silence while guards at the Bay County Boot Camp in Panama City ganged
up on a 14-year-old boy, appears to have forgotten that her job is to
help save lives.
Nurse stands by
Martin Lee Anderson, the victim, died just a few
hours after eight grown men punched and kneed him for allegedly failing
to perform an exercise routine. A videotape shows Ms. Schmidt standing
by a few feet away while guards pummel the unresisting boy. By the time
she fetched a supervisor, it was too late. No one will ever know whether
a forceful intervention or sharp rebuke by the nurse -- Stop it now! --
could have saved young Anderson's life, but surely it would have been
the proper thing to do.
Some experts in ethical behavior have speculated
that Ms. Schmidt was under pressure to accommodate her role to the
atmosphere of a disciplinary facility. Perhaps, but no such
consideration overrides the duty of nurses to respect and nurture life.
The Code of Ethics of the American Nurses
Association makes it clear that compassion should be the guiding ideal
of the nursing profession. It further states: ``Acquiescing and
accepting unsafe or inappropriate practices, even if the individual does
not participate in the specific practice, is equivalent to condoning
Sadly, Ms. Schmidt is not the first nurse in recent
Florida history whose actions, or failure to act, have been called into
question in the wake of a death by a juvenile in state custody.
Following the June 2003 death of 17-year-old Omar Paisley at a Miami
lockup operated by the Department of Juvenile Justice, nurses Gaile
Loperfido and Dianne Demeritte were charged with manslaughter and
third-degree murder. The trial is pending.
That situation was significantly different in many
ways, but certainly the performance of the nurses in both instances can
be deemed inconsistent with the accepted standards of the nursing
profession, to say the least. Until the actions of Ms. Schmidt can be
clarified, she should not be allowed to stay on the job as if nothing
Meanwhile, all nurses who work in state
institutions where men and women -- young or otherwise -- are
disciplined should be reminded of this relevant admonition in the ANA
Code of Ethics: ``Nurses should not remain employed in facilities that
routinely violate patient rights or require nurses to severely and
repeatedly compromise standards of practice and personal morality''