Anxious Patient “Treated” by Nurses who Taped her Mouth Shut

Merely Me Health Guide
  • For those of us who suffer from anxiety, going to the doctor can be an anxiety inducing event in itself. Yet what often can make things worse is to be subjected to inferior care due to having an anxiety disorder. In a previous post I wrote about how having a psychiatric label may, in some instances, adversely affect the quality of your medical care. I have several firsthand experiences of not being taken seriously by some medical professionals due to my history of depression and anxiety. My most recent example was of a doctor who was ready to dismiss my symptoms of chest tightness and nausea to anxiety without checking for other causes. My persistence to find an answer paid off and my symptoms were found to be caused by my malfunctioning gallbladder. I believe that many of you who have a mental disorder, especially related to anxiety, may have similar stories to tell. But I saw a news story recently that took the cake. Penny Artalego, a Utah woman, came to the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center the week before Christmas with symptoms of nausea and anxiety due to medication she was taking for chronic neck pain. Her daughter left her at the hospital believing she was in good care. But what happened next can best be described as inhumane and dangerous. Two nurses told Aratalego to “shut up” and then proceeded to tape her mouth shut with hospital tape.

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    One of the striking elements to this story is that these two nurses laughed about placing the tape over the patient’s mouth. They had even joked during the incident that they may be fired for their actions. But this did not stop them nor did the fact that this patient could have vomited, choked, or simply stopped breathing due to the tape covering her mouth. Penny Artalego had visited hospitals many times for her chronic neck pain due to an accident some years ago. Her daughter had taken her to the Utah Valley Regional Medical Care Intensive Care Unit because her mother had taken an overdose of her pain medication (20 pills) and was shaking, moaning, and her teeth were chattering as a result. The two nurses in charge of her care taped her mouth shut in response to Artalego’s teeth chattering. Although she was in pain she was still alert during this incident.


    The two nurses who were involved in taping this woman’s mouth have been fired. Their names have not been released and it is unclear as to whether their nursing licenses will be revoked. The hospital is calling it an isolated incident and an internal employee issue.


    You may find this news story on the HuffPost Social News along with thousands of comments. Although most people wrote in about being horrified that such an abuse took place, some were less than sympathetic. One commenter described the woman as “just another addict” and that the nurses can only be compassionate for “those who need it.” Others wondered if the woman were hallucinating or had outright lied about what had happened. Still others assumed that there was some reason for the nurses behavior and surmised that most likely this patient was combative and in need of restraint. One commenter shared their belief that this patient more in need of electric shock therapy than going to the ER.


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    Stories such as these raise many questions about our health care system, how patients deserve to be treated, and how we as a society view the chronically ill. I personally, do not believe there is ever an instance where a patient’s mouth should be taped shut as these nurses had done. There simply is no excuse. Imagine if this were you, your mother, or anyone else you care about. Nobody deserves to be treated in this manner. Having anxiety or chronic pain does not constitute a reason for maltreatment by medical professionals.


    What is your reaction to this story? Do you feel that justice has been served in this case? Or do you feel that there are parts to this story that don’t add up? Have you ever received poor treatment or abuse within the hospital system due to your anxiety, mental disorder, or chronic pain issues? We want to hear your story. Your thoughts and opinions are important to us!

Published On: December 26, 2011