Care home boss refused to perform CPR on dying resident

The former deputy manager of Grove Care Home, Jennifer SabbaghByline: Archant

Jennifer Sabbagh former deputy manager of The Grove care home at East Carleton. - Credit: Archant

A deputy care home manager has been prosecuted after she refused to perform CPR on a 78-year-old resident, as she wanted him to "die with dignity".

Jennifer Sabbagh, 63, was working at The Grove, in East Carleton, when the man suffered breathing difficulties and became unwell. She refused to provide CPR and, as deputy manager, stopped colleagues from doing so.

Appearing at Norwich Crown Court, she pleaded guilty to neglect and has been ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work.

The Grove, a Leonard Cheshire Disability care home in East Carleton.

The Grove, a Leonard Cheshire Disability care home in East Carleton. - Credit: Lauren De Boise

The court heard that Sabbagh made the decision despite there not being a 'do not attempt resuscitation' (DNAR) order in place for the resident, who had been at the home for 10 years.

A registered nurse since 1980, she had been working there for just three weeks when the incident happened.

Peter Gair, prosecuting, said the ambulance service was called after the resident, who did not lack mental capacity, suffered difficulty breathing at about 6.10pm on April 28 last year.

He initially recovered but his breathing got shallower again and when staff were instructed to commence CPR on the resident Sabbagh refused and said: "No, no, let him die with dignity".

Most Read

As well as preventing CPR from taking place she also prevented staff from moving him from the bed to the floor so resuscitation could be carried out, stating "we're not doing that, he's going with dignity".

Sabbagh told ambulance service call handlers: "I won't put him on the floor, he's breathing his last".

The resident was found to have died as a result of congestive cardiac failure as well as hypertensive heart disease.

The court also heard that expert advice was sought which confirmed it was highly unlikely CPR would have been effective in this case.

The matter was referred to the home's regional manager and Sabbagh was suspended ahead of a police investigation being carried out.

Sabbagh, of Drewray Drive, Thorpe Marriott, appeared at court on Tuesday (April 19) having pleaded guilty to being a care worker who ill treated/wilfully neglected an individual.

The Spire Hospital Norwich at Colney. Jeni Sabbagh, ward manager. Picture: Denise Bradley

Jeni Sabbagh, pictured in 2014 - Credit: Denise Bradley

Damien Moore, mitigating, said it was a "terribly sad case" with the defendant offering her profound and sincere apologies to the family of the deceased.

He said she recognised that these proceedings will have caused the family of the victim additional pain and upset for which she was very sorry for.

Sabbagh also wanted to apologise to her colleagues for failing in her professional duty.

Mr Moore said the case has "affected her profoundly" but insisted her sole intention was to "preserve the dignity" of the deceased and comfort him in his last moment.

He said that in her "clinical assessment", he was "seriously unwell" and "taking his last breaths".

He said many might think that morally and socially she did the right thing, but accepted it was not her decision to make.

Mr Moore said the defendant, who "is unable to look herself in the mirror" and "feels no sense of self-worth", was of exemplary good character.

The court heard there were testimonials from former colleagues as well as the family of a patient Sabbagh once helped to care for.

Judge Alice Robinson said those people in care homes were "some of the most vulnerable in our society" and were dependant on people like Sabbagh to look after them.

Judge Alice Robinson who will be taking over as resident judge at Norwich Crown Court.

Judge Alice Robinson - Credit: Supplied by Courts and Tribunals Judiciary

But she recognised there was "a significant amount of mitigation" in the case and that there was a "genuine attempt to do the right thing".

Sabbagh was given a community order with a condition she carries out 100 hours unpaid work.

The family of the resident did not attend court and did not provide a victim impact statement.

The Grove, a Leonard Cheshire Disability care home in East Carleton.

The Grove, a Leonard Cheshire Disability care home in East Carleton. - Credit: Lauren De Boise

Speaking after the case, a spokesperson for Leonard Cheshire, which runs The Grove, said: “We are deeply saddened by the death of a resident at The Grove.

The Grove care home 

The Grove care home - Credit: Lauren De Boise

"The death of anyone in our care is profoundly upsetting and support was put in place for any staff at the service who may have needed it.

"The safety and wellbeing of our residents is our number one priority at all times and we worked with the police throughout this investigation.

“Ms Sabbagh was immediately suspended while an internal investigation was undertaken. She was subsequently dismissed, with her professional body and other authorities alerted.

“The actions of Ms Sabbagh could not have been predicted and were completely against the expectations of any staff in these circumstances, as well as professional nursing standards in all settings.”

Steve Dorrington, manager of Dorrington House Care Homes, which has three homes in Dereham, Watton and Wells, said the case should act as a "wake-up call" to homes to make sure people's wishes are documented and "all staff know what they are doing".

Dorrington House owner Steve Dorrington. Picture: Ian Burt

Steve Dorrington, manager of Dorrington House Care Homes. - Credit: Ian Burt

He said if there was no DNAR in place in the care plan or if there was any doubt you should do CPR.

Referring to Sabbagh's decision not to perform CPR, or allow staff to, Mr Dorrington said: "She shouldn't have done it.

"If there's no DNAR in place you have to assume that every person has capacity and you do CPR."

Sabbagh declined to comment when approached following the conclusion of proceedings.

No further risk at care home

The Grove care home was inspected following the emergence of Sabbagh's actions and continues to be monitored.

A Care Quality Commission spokesman said: “We are aware a former nurse who was employed at The Grove, East Carleton, has been prosecuted following the death of a resident last April.

“Following this sad incident, we inspected the home and rated it requires improvement. We also liaised with the police, who brought this prosecution, and Leonard Cheshire Disability, which runs the home, to determine whether people using the service are at risk of harm.  

“We do not have information indicating people at the home are at risk of harm, but we continue to monitor it closely to ensure people receive the standards of care they have a right to expect.”