The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled in long drawn out case of a nurse accused of assaulting a patient with a pillow. Kim Wyatt was working as a registered nurse in the special neuroscience unit at the University of Iowa Hospitals in May of 2004. Patients in the unit who are exposed to excessive noise or light can suffer ruptured aneurysms so severe that they cause paralysis or death.

One of these patients was on the floor as Wyatt worked when another patient, an 82-year-old man with a possible brain tumor, began screaming, "Help me, help me," as a nurse tried to put an I-V in his arm. Wyatt found four staff members attempting to restrain the man and in an attempt to keep his noise from causing harm to the first patient, grabbed a pillow and placed it over the man’s mouth.

Another nurses objected to the use of the pillow and asked Wyatt to stop. Those in the room estimated that the incident lasted between ten and thirty seconds, and officials said there was no lasting impact on the man. A nursing supervisor determined that no abuse had occurred, but the hospital filed a report with the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA) which investigated and determined that Wyatt had committed dependent adult abuse by unreasonably punishing and assaulting the man.

Wyatt’s name was then placed on the dependent adult abuse registry. Wyatt appealed that decision. The case wound back and forth with appeals at several levels of the legal and administrative system. The case finally ended up with the Supreme Court which said after suffering a seemingly unending series of reversals and appeals the would now settle the matter. The High Court says no assault occurred under the facts of this case. And Wyatt’s name will be removed from the dependent adult abuse registry. 

Audio: Radio Iowa’s Dar Danielson reports. 1:21 MP3