KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – What are your rights if you’re unconscious?
The issue was brought up recently by an incident involving a police officer that tried to get a blood sample from a man that was unconscious in a Utah hospital. When a nurse at the hospital refused to give him a sample, she was handcuffed and dragged off while she cited a supreme court ruling that blood samples cannot be taken without a patient’s consent or a warrant.
WATE 6 On Your Side Legal Analyst says in Tennessee if you are going to get blood there are only two ways to do it: get consent from the individual or get a search warrant. He adds that family members, along with a nurse or doctor, cannot give consent. At times your capacity to give consent often comes into play.
“We have HIPPA, we have rights against unreasonable search and seizures, so your doctor or your nurse can’t give your body fluids to the government without a legal basis,” said Greg Isaacs WATE 6 On Your Side Legal Analyst. “It shines a light on the fact that you need to be critical of the way the legal process works.”
WATE 6 On Your Side reached out to Knoxville law enforcement agencies but they declined to share their procedures, instead they pointed us to the District Attorney’s Office who has not yet responded to our requests. We also asked East Tennessee hospitals about their procedures and protocol when it comes to collecting blood samples.
University of Tennessee Medical Center says they can only draw blood when law enforcement presents medical staff with appropriate authorization. Tennova says they follow the law on requests for blood, adding safety of their patients, staff, and law enforcement is first priority. Covenant Health adds they do not draw blood without a patient’s permission. If they’re not able to, officers must provide a written request which complies with legal requirements before it’s considered.