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Taping Patient's Mouth Shut: Utah Nurse Fired For Treatment Of Penny Artalejo

First Posted: 12/23/11 04:22 PM ET Updated: 12/24/11 11:23 AM ET

Mouth Taped Shut
A Utah hospital has fired two nurses who taped a patient's mouth shut and then laughed about it.

SALT LAKE CITY -- Two nurses in a Utah hospital's intensive care unit were fired this week for taping a patient's mouth shut and laughing about it, hospital officials said Friday.

Artalejo's daughter, Brittany Bilson, told the television station that her mother's teeth were chattering and she was moaning and shaking. Bilson said the nurses told her mother to shut up, taped her mouth closed and joked they would be fired if they were caught.

Penny Artalejo was admitted to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo on Dec. 17 with nausea and anxiety from taking medication for chronic neck pain, her daughters told Utah radio station KSL.com.

"It's not right. It's inhumane," Bilson said. "We put our loved ones' lives in their hands. I left the hospital basically thinking she's fine from here, and just more bad happened."

Artalejo said the nurses knew what they were doing was wrong. Though in pain, she said she was alert the whole time.

Her daughters were furious when their mother told them about the incident the next day.

On Dec. 18, Artalejo's daughters confronted the head nurse on the floor where their mother was treated, but he denied the allegation. Bilson and her sister filed a complaint with hospital administrators.

Janet Frank, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said there was a full investigation and the nurses – one male and one female – were fired Wednesday.

"We were able to determine it was a very isolated incident," Frank said. "But as a hospital we are fully committed to providing quality and compassionate care. The allegations that were brought forth were completely against that commitment."

Frank said the incident has been reported to Utah's Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing. The hospital is not releasing the nurses' names, calling it an internal employee issue.

Bilson said dismissal was appropriate.

"I don't think we should give them an opportunity to do this to anyone else," she said.

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Filed by Buck Wolf  |