JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - The Missouri Hospital Association said on Tuesday hospitals should have an open dialogue with law enforcement officials when it comes to hospital policy.
The MHA statement comes days after video surfaced of a nurse being taken into custody at a Utah hospital.
Nurse Alex Wubbels was taken into custody in July after she refused to draw blood from an unconscious patient without a warrant. Hospital policy stated police needed to have a judge's order, the patient's consent or the patient needed to be under arrest before drawing a blood sample.
Wubbels was released and not charged. According to her attorney, the hospital and Salt Lake City police had agreed on the policy more than a year ago, despite the officers appearing to be unaware of it.
Locally, the MHA said state law, federal law and a hospital's role to protect a patient's privacy conflict with each other.
"State and federal law put Missouri providers in a difficult situation relative to warrantless blood draws," spokesperson Dave Dillon said.
Dillon said a person operating any type of vehicle has essentially given implied consent when it comes to Missouri state law.
Despite this, state law also directs trained medical personnel can object to law enforcement officials' direction to draw blood if they believe that it would endanger the life or health of a patient.
"This law doesn't reference the 'implied consent' section of law, nor does it demand a warrant," Dillon said in a written statement. "Therefore health care workers and organizations are in jeopardy of violating the privacy of a patient who cannot consent - for example, an unconscious individual - who is in their care when a warrantless blood draw is demanded."
Dillon also referenced the U.S. Supreme Court factor, stating that submitting to blood tests may violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches.
"In their opinion, on a case revolving around a warrantless blood draw, the court distinguished between breath tests, which did not raise significant privacy concerns, and blood draws, referencing the invasive nature of the latter."
In order to avoid confusion over the conflicting laws and situations like what happened in Utah, the MHA recommends hospitals across the state create their policy on warrantless blood draws and share it with staff members and law enforcement officials.
"An open dialogue about the hospital's policy could at least reduce the chance that miscommunication could occur between staff and law enforcement," said Dillon.