Travis County Hospitals and Sheriff’s Department have finally figured out that Forced Blood Draws are a bad idea. When will Chief Acevedo figure it out?

The Austin American Statesman reported in today’s paper that Austin’s Hospitals and the Sheriff’s Department have informed the Austin Police Department (APD) that they will no longer collect blood for APD.

Travis County’s central booking facility had been the place where APD took their suspected DWI folks for the forced blood draw. APD would rely on the Sheriff’s nurses to do the forced blood draw. (If the person refused, they would literally strap them in a chair so that the person couldn’t move their arms, and then stick them with the needle) The Sheriff’s Department nurses stopped taking blood samples on January 1. The Sheriff’s Department has finally realized that the nurses main function should be to treat inmates, not collect evidence. Further, they are deeply concerned about having to give nurse’s overtime pay to appear in court after having been the one that draws the blood.

Since the Sheriff’s Office stopped doing the blood draws, APD started taking suspects to the hospital for the blood draws. (I can’t verifiy this, but I heard that the hospital was charging APD $400.00 per blood draw.) The Hospital representatives have now told APD they don’t want them to bring suspects to jail for blood draws. The Hospital staff are worried about lawsuits, and are concerned because these types of blood draws are not being done for medical reasons. Further, the Hospitals are worried about who will pay for the nurse’s time when they are called to court to testify about the procedure they used to draw the blood.

Chief Acevedo thinks he has figured out a way around these problems. APD contracted with a private phlebotomist to draw the blood of folks on Halloween weekend and New Years Eve. APD agreed to pay the phlebotomist for three eight hour shifts during these weekends. What APD didn’t contract for was pay for this phlebotomist when she is drug into court to testify about the blood draws. I predict there will be a lot of screaming from the phlebotomist when she finally figures out that the money she received per hour will now be reduced by the number hours she has to sit in court.

In the Statesman article, an “expert in blood draws” states that “the state laws are clear that nurses and hospitals are protected from such suits. What the “expert” appears to be referencing is Section 724.017 of the Texas Transportation Code. The relevant section states:

The person who takes the blood specimen under this chapter, or the hospital where the blood specimen is taken, is not liable for damages arising from the request or order of the peace officer to take the blood specimen as provided by this chapter if the blood specimen was taken according to recognized medical procedures.

However, this “expert” left out the final sentence to section (b) “This subsection does not relieve a person from liability for negligence in the taking of a blood specimen.” Now, what the “expert” seems to be forgetting is that it will ultimately be up to a fact finder (judge or Jury) to determine if negligence took place.

Also, I bet no one informed the phlebotomists that they could be help liable for the blood draws either.

APD is treading on thin ice on this issue, and the sad part is, they either don’t even realize it, or they don’t care.

Posted in Austin DWI, Austin Police, Blood Test, News | Comments Off