“A failure of caring”

Two dead women, half a country apart. One of them dying in a failing hospital in Los Angeles, the other while being held in a St. Louis jail. Both of them failed by systems and authorities charged with watching over them. The Los Angeles case is making national news, while the St. Louis matter remains a local story…for the moment.

In Los Angeles:

A woman who lay bleeding on the emergency room floor of a troubled inner-city hospital died after 911 dispatchers refused to contact paramedics or an ambulance to take her to another facility, newly released tapes of the emergency calls reveal.Edith Isabel Rodriguez, 43, died of a perforated bowel on May 9 at Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital. Her death was ruled accidental by the Los Angeles County coroner’s office. […]

County and state authorities are now investigating Rodriguez’s death. Relatives reported she died as police were wheeling her out of the hospital after the officers they had asked to help Rodriguez arrested her instead on a parole violation. Sheriff’s Department spokesman Duane Allen said Wednesday that the investigation is ongoing. […]

The incident was the latest high-profile lapse at King-Harbor, formerly known as King/Drew. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is investigating claims of recent patient care breakdowns, including Rodriguez’s case.

Federal inspectors last week said emergency room patients were in “immediate jeopardy” of harm or death, and King-Harbor was given 23 days to shape up or risk losing federal funding.

In St. Louis:

That 9-1-1 call from the St. Louis Justice Center at 1:38 a.m. on April 11th was about Lavonda Kimble, 30. Kimble had been brought to the jail 10 hours earlier for failing to appear in court for two traffic tickets. While in custody she suffered a severe asthma attack, but as paramedics arrived on the scene they couldn’t find any jail personnel to take them to the patient. Kimble would be pronounced dead an hour later. The paramedic would later write, it had taken 8 minutes to get to Kimble. “The care our patient received prior to STLFD personnel {arriving} was substandard at best, and the fact that we were not able to reach the patient immediately was detrimental to the patient’s outcome.” She goes further by saying, “Every time I’ve been to the justice center it takes 10 to 15 minutes to even get to the patient. There is never anyone to guide us and never any sense of urgency.” Now News 4 has obtained this May 30th Corrections Division Internal Affairs report. The report downplays the paramedic’s complaints. […]

Tragically, Kimble wasn’t even supposed to be jailed. Her $ 250 bond had been paid hours before she became ill, but a miscommunication kept word from reaching the jail.

More on the St. Louis situation:

The troubling circumstances of Ms. Kimble’s death should be the subject of an independent medical investigation. They also raise questions about the quality of care being provided to other inmates at the jail. Inmate care at the city jail is provided by Correctional Medical Services, a St. Louis company that provides health care under contract to 27 state prison systems including Missouri’s.Ken Fields, a spokesman for the company, said he was unable to comment on Ms. Kimble’s death. However, he pointed to statistics that he said show the quality of care at CMS- run medical facilities is comparable to that of outside hospitals and clinics.

In the past, CMS has been the subject of intense criticism in lawsuits and court rulings. In 1998, a Post-Dispatch investigation found numerous examples of inadequate or improper care provided to prisoners in several states, sometimes resulting in death.

The director of the Los Angeles County called Rodriguez’s death “fundamentally a failure of caring.” That accusation applies in equal measure to Kimble’s needless death in St. Louis, and should force us all to examine why we allow our institutions – which are only extensions of ourselves and our own values – to place such little worth on the welfare of those in their charge.

(Cross-posted.)

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18 Comments

Filed under 02_waveflux

18 responses to ““A failure of caring”

  1. Melissa McEwan

    Fucking hell. You know, every time I hear some conservative fuckhead warbling on endlessly about how “rehabilitation doesn’t work” (and they’re not talking about sex crimes), I just want to scream: “Oh really? Because every time I read about the state of the American prison system, it doesn’t seem like we’re trying it!

    Call me crazy, but it seems to me that part of rehabilitating people is, ya know, showing them a little basic fucking humanity.

    ARGH.

    Meanwhile, speaking of women who died needlessly, Kate Harding just wrote a piece the other day about a woman who died because the paramedics were too busy yukking it up about how fat she was.

  2. There used to be this idea that we all had to take care of each other — there was also strength in numbers to make sure stuff got done for us.

    And then about 25 years ago? Not so much. We didn’t care what happened to anybody else, we voted for every tax cut (even when we did not benefit), and our social safety net was soon in tatters. (All the What’s the Matter with Kansas? stuff.)

    Meanwhile, Dick Cheney has access to the best health care on earth. On our dime.

    We can hope that the tide is turning. We’ve seen what the “failure of caring” is doing to all of us. (Katrina, etc, ad nauseum.) We don’t really have any choice but to change things if we want to live — literally, as these news stories attest.

  3. I commented over at Incertius about an experience I had in 1983, when I was a social worker — the Reagan era took huge, indiscriminate slices out of health care — the DRGs, etc. — and we GOT USED TO IT!!

    Now, some call him a “great” president, which causes my hair to ascend from my scalp in horror.

    Thanks for posting this Phil — I think the greatest damage that the right has perpetrated upon our nation (yes, that’s right — I said “PERPETRATED!”) is the incremental slide into a “me for me” attitude.

  4. Melissa McEwan

    I think the greatest damage that the right has perpetrated upon our nation (yes, that’s right — I said “PERPETRATED!”) is the incremental slide into a “me for me” attitude

    I agree–and I’d add that it’s not just “me for me” anymore (would that it was!); now it’s “me for me, and I don’t care if it’s at your expense.”

    The old conservative paradigm was simply not to care if other people floundered while “you got yours,” but the new paradigm is to exploit others’ floundering to your own advantage. It’s no longer just “I got mine!” but “I got mine–and yours. Sucks to be you!”

  5. “It’s no longer just “I got mine!” but “I got mine–and yours. Sucks to be you!”

    True, Liss — couldn’t have said it better.

  6. Some days it seems that we’re already living in Hobbes’s war of all against all. Except that the folks with the biggest piles of money have a really big stick called “gummint” to smack the rest of us around with.

    It’s not quite that bad, but it doesn’t seem that far off either. How fucked up are we as a nation when someone can die on the waiting room floor of a hospital emergency room? We put people in jail for stupid bullshit things that shouldn’t even be crimes in the first place and they die because the guards are overworked and underpaid (and/) or simply just don’t care.

  7. nightshift66

    Portly,
    You could have as accurately discussed the harm the Right has PENETRATED upon us: they’ve screwed us hard, fast, and continuously for years now.

    Liss,
    That article from the UK got to me. My wife is about that size, and I believe I’d have ‘encouraged’ the paramedics to get a move on in non-verbal ways had it been us in that situation.

    Finally, regarding the substance of the post: I am probably the harshest on crime and criminals of all regulars here. I have no problem with incarceration as punishment and believe jails and prisons ought to be unpleasant.

    However, even after conviction, these are human beings and (mostly) fellow citizens. Even a felon shouldn’t be treated so callously, and certainly any legal proceedings can wait until, you know, you make sure they’ll live to see them??? I can’t understand people who claim to be ‘law and order’ who hate legal niceties like trials, due process, and proportionality of punishment to crime. Does a parole violation or a minor misdemeanor merit death to anyone? Does being obese? All three of these situations cries out for justice.

  8. Melissa McEwan

    That article from the UK got to me. My wife is about that size

    It got to me, too, since I weigh more than that!

    I believe I’d have ‘encouraged’ the paramedics to get a move on in non-verbal ways had it been us in that situation

    No kidding. Plus, 245 pounds is not that heavy. A 6-ft+ man who’s merely of medium build can come close to that number. Two paramedics together should be able to move someone of that size fairly easily.

  9. nightshift66

    I can still carry my wife unassisted, but it is about my limit. Even with the proviso that Europeans tend to be smaller people, two of them couldn’t put the lady on a stretcher?? IF this proves out true, two parameds need to have licenses yanked.

  10. kathy a

    if we are going to take people into custody — that means we are responsible for their basic safety and health. we, all of us, and the governments that represent us, have that responsibility.

    LA county hospital, aka king/drew/harbor, is the major hospital serving the south central los angeles area — an economically and socially marginalized area largely populated by minorities with lower incomes. the hospital was stripped of its status as a teaching hospital a little while back, and the stories keep coming in about its failures to patients and the community. in fairness, this hospital tries to serve a large high-risk population, has more than its share of impoverished patients and trauma patients, and has been persistently underfunded and understaffed. not an excuse for letting this woman die in the waiting room, but perhaps part of the explanation.

    among the other players in the LA drama are the police/sheriff department. there is a history of terrible police-community relations going back well over 40 years. the LA times has reported such stories at least since the watts riots in 1965. a reasonable person could believe that gangs may not have gotten a real foothold, if the police had understood they were to “protect and serve” even those folks in south central. [not saying this is an entire answer to gangs; just that the history of police relations in this poor urban community makes gangs a little more understandable.] i can’t help but think that the historical backdrop of police failures is part of what went wrong for ms. rodriguez.

  11. kathy a

    didn’t even get to st. louis. asthma is something that can be turned around, given access to medical care. it is appalling that the medics could not get to the patient. totally appalling.

    the medical care provided in california prisons is so bad that the entire prison system is under the oversight of a federal judge. [jails are a separate deal — they are locally run.] i’m afraid that these stories are only the tip of an iceberg of how badly we neglect some of the worst off among us.

  12. Melissa McEwan

    if we are going to take people into custody — that means we are responsible for their basic safety and health. we, all of us, and the governments that represent us, have that responsibility.

    That about sums it up.

  13. Kate Harding

    Not to turn this into a Katewhoring thread, but I wrote about a panel I attended on how incarcerated women’s reproductive health is jeopardized fifty ways from Sunday here. The treatment of prisoners is appalling. Prison doctors in New York don’t have to have medical licenses.

    It is unbelievable the way incarcerated people are automatically categorized and treated as less than human. And yeah, Kathy A’s quote above really does sum it up.

  14. Melissa McEwan

    Not to turn this into a Katewhoring thread

    Blogwhoring is always encouraged here. 😉

  15. Pingback: I said 'Remember this ... is how it should be.'

  16. You know, every time I hear some conservative fuckhead warbling on endlessly about how “rehabilitation doesn’t work” (and they’re not talking about sex crimes), I just want to scream: “Oh really? Because every time I read about the state of the American prison system, it doesn’t seem like we’re trying it!”

    Not the mention the fact that there are studies out there that show that rehabilitation can work.

    It must be decades ago now, but there was a study/experiment done in the DC area where they took convicted criminals (don’t remember if it was voluntary, which makes a difference) who had ADD (or a high probability of ADD) and gave them a simple life skills class that incorporated dealing with the symptoms of ADD. (I can’t remember if they were in prison when they took the class or not.) The recidivism rate for that group was positively fucking amazing compared to the average (for the types of crimes they had committed, which where all or mostly non-violent crimes, if I remember right).

  17. kathy a

    i firmly believe in rehabilitation. it was abandoned as one of the objectives of incarceration along about the time that “tough on crime” became the primary focus of the criminal justice system, and a required platform for politicians — in the ’70’s and thereafter, i think.

    if you just lock people up with other people who have messed up, and give them no opportunities to learn skills, continue their education, do productive work, discover art and literature, work in a safe therapeutic environment on what has gone wrong in their lives — why should we expect they will come out at the end of increasingly long sentences as individuals capable of negotiating the real world? how do we expect them to understand themselves, much less find jobs?

    add that neglect to dangerous conditions in prison, disrespect by the staff, the terrible lack of medical care, and it is pretty much a miracle that anyone goes on to success after prison.

    these are human beings, even the ones who have done terrible things. even the ones who are mentally ill, and get little or no treatment. even the ones who are not very smart. the ones who were abused and neglected as far back as anyone can remember; the ones who still protect the people who should have protected them, saying “she did the best she could,” or “he had too many troubles, i remember this time he was nice to me.” the ones who hope they get out, so they can tell the young guys in the neighborhood not to make the same mistakes. the ones who dream of having their music or art or writings published, and those who have been in so long they have never seen a laptop or a cell phone. the ones whose dental care consists of pulling the bad ones; or whose high blood pressure or diabetes is treated only every so often; whose minor infections go untreated until they are big problems. the ones who spend days laboriously drawing a card for a loved one, using the few supplies they can muster; who press their prison-issue jeans carefully under the mattress, so they will look sharp for a rare visitor; who share the bounty of a quarterly package with others nearby; who check on a tier-mate who is doing poorly.

    the governator recently said he wanted to get more rehabilitation into the system. about time. but at least in california, the prison system is so enormous and so messed up, this isn’t happening tomorrow.

  18. Pingback: First, do no harm. Or was it do nothing? at Pandagon

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“A failure of caring”

Two dead women, half a country apart. One of them dying in a failing hospital in Los Angeles, the other while being held in a St. Louis jail. Both of them failed by systems and authorities charged with watching over them. The Los Angeles case is making national news, while the St. Louis matter remains a local story…for the moment.

(more…)

18 Comments

Filed under 02_waveflux

18 responses to ““A failure of caring”

  1. Melissa McEwan

    Fucking hell. You know, every time I hear some conservative fuckhead warbling on endlessly about how “rehabilitation doesn’t work” (and they’re not talking about sex crimes), I just want to scream: “Oh really? Because every time I read about the state of the American prison system, it doesn’t seem like we’re trying it!

    Call me crazy, but it seems to me that part of rehabilitating people is, ya know, showing them a little basic fucking humanity.

    ARGH.

    Meanwhile, speaking of women who died needlessly, Kate Harding just wrote a piece the other day about a woman who died because the paramedics were too busy yukking it up about how fat she was.

  2. There used to be this idea that we all had to take care of each other — there was also strength in numbers to make sure stuff got done for us.

    And then about 25 years ago? Not so much. We didn’t care what happened to anybody else, we voted for every tax cut (even when we did not benefit), and our social safety net was soon in tatters. (All the What’s the Matter with Kansas? stuff.)

    Meanwhile, Dick Cheney has access to the best health care on earth. On our dime.

    We can hope that the tide is turning. We’ve seen what the “failure of caring” is doing to all of us. (Katrina, etc, ad nauseum.) We don’t really have any choice but to change things if we want to live — literally, as these news stories attest.

  3. I commented over at Incertius about an experience I had in 1983, when I was a social worker — the Reagan era took huge, indiscriminate slices out of health care — the DRGs, etc. — and we GOT USED TO IT!!

    Now, some call him a “great” president, which causes my hair to ascend from my scalp in horror.

    Thanks for posting this Phil — I think the greatest damage that the right has perpetrated upon our nation (yes, that’s right — I said “PERPETRATED!”) is the incremental slide into a “me for me” attitude.

  4. Melissa McEwan

    I think the greatest damage that the right has perpetrated upon our nation (yes, that’s right — I said “PERPETRATED!”) is the incremental slide into a “me for me” attitude

    I agree–and I’d add that it’s not just “me for me” anymore (would that it was!); now it’s “me for me, and I don’t care if it’s at your expense.”

    The old conservative paradigm was simply not to care if other people floundered while “you got yours,” but the new paradigm is to exploit others’ floundering to your own advantage. It’s no longer just “I got mine!” but “I got mine–and yours. Sucks to be you!”

  5. “It’s no longer just “I got mine!” but “I got mine–and yours. Sucks to be you!”

    True, Liss — couldn’t have said it better.

  6. Some days it seems that we’re already living in Hobbes’s war of all against all. Except that the folks with the biggest piles of money have a really big stick called “gummint” to smack the rest of us around with.

    It’s not quite that bad, but it doesn’t seem that far off either. How fucked up are we as a nation when someone can die on the waiting room floor of a hospital emergency room? We put people in jail for stupid bullshit things that shouldn’t even be crimes in the first place and they die because the guards are overworked and underpaid (and/) or simply just don’t care.

  7. nightshift66

    Portly,
    You could have as accurately discussed the harm the Right has PENETRATED upon us: they’ve screwed us hard, fast, and continuously for years now.

    Liss,
    That article from the UK got to me. My wife is about that size, and I believe I’d have ‘encouraged’ the paramedics to get a move on in non-verbal ways had it been us in that situation.

    Finally, regarding the substance of the post: I am probably the harshest on crime and criminals of all regulars here. I have no problem with incarceration as punishment and believe jails and prisons ought to be unpleasant.

    However, even after conviction, these are human beings and (mostly) fellow citizens. Even a felon shouldn’t be treated so callously, and certainly any legal proceedings can wait until, you know, you make sure they’ll live to see them??? I can’t understand people who claim to be ‘law and order’ who hate legal niceties like trials, due process, and proportionality of punishment to crime. Does a parole violation or a minor misdemeanor merit death to anyone? Does being obese? All three of these situations cries out for justice.

  8. Melissa McEwan

    That article from the UK got to me. My wife is about that size

    It got to me, too, since I weigh more than that!

    I believe I’d have ‘encouraged’ the paramedics to get a move on in non-verbal ways had it been us in that situation

    No kidding. Plus, 245 pounds is not that heavy. A 6-ft+ man who’s merely of medium build can come close to that number. Two paramedics together should be able to move someone of that size fairly easily.

  9. nightshift66

    I can still carry my wife unassisted, but it is about my limit. Even with the proviso that Europeans tend to be smaller people, two of them couldn’t put the lady on a stretcher?? IF this proves out true, two parameds need to have licenses yanked.

  10. kathy a

    if we are going to take people into custody — that means we are responsible for their basic safety and health. we, all of us, and the governments that represent us, have that responsibility.

    LA county hospital, aka king/drew/harbor, is the major hospital serving the south central los angeles area — an economically and socially marginalized area largely populated by minorities with lower incomes. the hospital was stripped of its status as a teaching hospital a little while back, and the stories keep coming in about its failures to patients and the community. in fairness, this hospital tries to serve a large high-risk population, has more than its share of impoverished patients and trauma patients, and has been persistently underfunded and understaffed. not an excuse for letting this woman die in the waiting room, but perhaps part of the explanation.

    among the other players in the LA drama are the police/sheriff department. there is a history of terrible police-community relations going back well over 40 years. the LA times has reported such stories at least since the watts riots in 1965. a reasonable person could believe that gangs may not have gotten a real foothold, if the police had understood they were to “protect and serve” even those folks in south central. [not saying this is an entire answer to gangs; just that the history of police relations in this poor urban community makes gangs a little more understandable.] i can’t help but think that the historical backdrop of police failures is part of what went wrong for ms. rodriguez.

  11. kathy a

    didn’t even get to st. louis. asthma is something that can be turned around, given access to medical care. it is appalling that the medics could not get to the patient. totally appalling.

    the medical care provided in california prisons is so bad that the entire prison system is under the oversight of a federal judge. [jails are a separate deal — they are locally run.] i’m afraid that these stories are only the tip of an iceberg of how badly we neglect some of the worst off among us.

  12. Melissa McEwan

    if we are going to take people into custody — that means we are responsible for their basic safety and health. we, all of us, and the governments that represent us, have that responsibility.

    That about sums it up.

  13. Kate Harding

    Not to turn this into a Katewhoring thread, but I wrote about a panel I attended on how incarcerated women’s reproductive health is jeopardized fifty ways from Sunday here. The treatment of prisoners is appalling. Prison doctors in New York don’t have to have medical licenses.

    It is unbelievable the way incarcerated people are automatically categorized and treated as less than human. And yeah, Kathy A’s quote above really does sum it up.

  14. Melissa McEwan

    Not to turn this into a Katewhoring thread

    Blogwhoring is always encouraged here. 😉

  15. Pingback: I said 'Remember this ... is how it should be.'

  16. You know, every time I hear some conservative fuckhead warbling on endlessly about how “rehabilitation doesn’t work” (and they’re not talking about sex crimes), I just want to scream: “Oh really? Because every time I read about the state of the American prison system, it doesn’t seem like we’re trying it!”

    Not the mention the fact that there are studies out there that show that rehabilitation can work.

    It must be decades ago now, but there was a study/experiment done in the DC area where they took convicted criminals (don’t remember if it was voluntary, which makes a difference) who had ADD (or a high probability of ADD) and gave them a simple life skills class that incorporated dealing with the symptoms of ADD. (I can’t remember if they were in prison when they took the class or not.) The recidivism rate for that group was positively fucking amazing compared to the average (for the types of crimes they had committed, which where all or mostly non-violent crimes, if I remember right).

  17. kathy a

    i firmly believe in rehabilitation. it was abandoned as one of the objectives of incarceration along about the time that “tough on crime” became the primary focus of the criminal justice system, and a required platform for politicians — in the ’70’s and thereafter, i think.

    if you just lock people up with other people who have messed up, and give them no opportunities to learn skills, continue their education, do productive work, discover art and literature, work in a safe therapeutic environment on what has gone wrong in their lives — why should we expect they will come out at the end of increasingly long sentences as individuals capable of negotiating the real world? how do we expect them to understand themselves, much less find jobs?

    add that neglect to dangerous conditions in prison, disrespect by the staff, the terrible lack of medical care, and it is pretty much a miracle that anyone goes on to success after prison.

    these are human beings, even the ones who have done terrible things. even the ones who are mentally ill, and get little or no treatment. even the ones who are not very smart. the ones who were abused and neglected as far back as anyone can remember; the ones who still protect the people who should have protected them, saying “she did the best she could,” or “he had too many troubles, i remember this time he was nice to me.” the ones who hope they get out, so they can tell the young guys in the neighborhood not to make the same mistakes. the ones who dream of having their music or art or writings published, and those who have been in so long they have never seen a laptop or a cell phone. the ones whose dental care consists of pulling the bad ones; or whose high blood pressure or diabetes is treated only every so often; whose minor infections go untreated until they are big problems. the ones who spend days laboriously drawing a card for a loved one, using the few supplies they can muster; who press their prison-issue jeans carefully under the mattress, so they will look sharp for a rare visitor; who share the bounty of a quarterly package with others nearby; who check on a tier-mate who is doing poorly.

    the governator recently said he wanted to get more rehabilitation into the system. about time. but at least in california, the prison system is so enormous and so messed up, this isn’t happening tomorrow.

  18. Pingback: First, do no harm. Or was it do nothing? at Pandagon

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