A doctor at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis was arrested after he refused to draw blood from the suspect in a fatal stabbing without the man's consent.
The suspect, Erik Lamont Lindsey, had been drinking alcohol when he allegedly stabbed the victim early Saturday. Police brought the 35-year-old Lindsey to the hospital to get his blood alcohol tested.
The doctor, Marc Martel, M.D., would not draw Lindsey's blood without his consent. He continued to refuse after police got a judge to telephone the doctor and tell him to draw the suspect's blood, police Capt. Rich Stanek said.
Police decided Tuesday to drop their pursuit of misdemeanor obstruction charges against Martel.
Martel, who has worked at the hospital since 2000, was trying to follow hospital policy for protecting patient privacy by not doing "intrusive procedures" such as drawing blood without consent, HCMC spokesman Tom Hayes said.
When a patient refuses to consent, the hospital requires a signed court order, Hayes said.
The written order didn't arrive until about 9 a.m., shortly after police arrested Martel. A different doctor then drew the blood, five hours after officers brought Lindsey to the hospital.
While investigators appreciate Martel's professionalism and dedication to ethics, Stanek said, "in this instance, however, I think he was wrong."
Stanek said the delay could have "a serious impact on the case," because the test won't provide an accurate gauge of the suspect's blood-alcohol level at the time of the stabbing.
Police spokesman Ron Reier said that without an accurate blood-alcohol test, the suspect could use extreme drunkenness as a defense. Also, prosecutors need to know if a suspect was chemically impaired before they make a decision on charges, he said.
Results of the blood test weren't available Tuesday, but prosecutors charged Lindsey with one count of second-degree intentional murder and one count of second-degree unintentional murder.
Martel has not commented publicly. He was not on duty Tuesday and did not have a listed phone number. He is continuing to work his regular schedule at the hospital, Hayes said.
Because of the case, the hospital is working with the county attorney's office to review and clarify the hospital policy, which has been in effect since about 2001, Hayes said. "We need to provide more information in the policy, so it is more specific and there are no questions," he said.
A 1966 U.S. Supreme Court ruling granted police the right to have blood drawn without a court order in cases where someone has died or if a person's death is highly likely, Stanek said.
The stabbing victim was Dwayne Payne, 25, of Harvey, Ill.
Police said that Payne and a woman were visiting Lindsey's home in Minneapolis and that the two men got into a dispute while drinking.