Inmate Withdrawal Deaths Spur Wrongful Death Suits

by Rick Hessig | Apr 19, 2016 | 

Across the United States, thousands are dying from opioid overdose and withdrawal. With proper medical care and  access to treatment, many of these deaths could have been easily avoided. Tragically,  several high-profile cases illustrate situations where inmates denied medical care have died due to severe opioid withdrawal.

While some withdrawal symptoms, such as muscle aches, anxiety and insomnia can be minor, many symptoms such as convulsions, seizures and delirium are more severe. In crowded, unhygienic settings with limited access to medical treatment, these symptoms can prove fatal.

Recent Inmate Withdrawal Cases

In June 2015, a 32-year-old Detroit man died from acute opioid withdrawal while serving a 30-day jail sentence stemming from a careless driving conviction.

He was found naked on his jail cell floor, 50 pounds lighter than when he began his sentence. His death spurred an FBI investigation.

His family has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit, which described his “excruciatingly painful and slow” death and alleges his condition was ignored by jail officials and medical staff while in custody.

More recently, in January 2016, a 24-year-old Wasilla woman died in an Alaskan jail due to severe symptoms stemming from heroin withdrawal. The woman was just six days into her sentence for failure to complete community service hours stemming from a suspending operator’s license charge. The Alaska Correctional Officers Associations stated she should have “been in a hospital bed, not a prison cell.”

Individuals suffering from substance abuse disorders are considered by many medical professions to suffer from a health condition requiring ongoing medical treatment. Unfortunately, these individuals are largely denied proper health care, as the prior cases illustrate. Some groups, such as the ACLU, consider the deprivation of medical treatment for inmates suffering from opioid withdrawals a violation of the Eight Amendment barring cruel and unusual punishment.

While the Federal Bureau of Prisons has detoxification guidelines delineating a protocol for administering medical treatment for withdrawals, county jails, where most of the nation’s inmates are incarcerated, have no such guidelines.

Yes, we handle Kentucky  cases involving wrongful death while in custody, however there is no jury verdict that can make up for the loss of a loved one.

At Hessig & Pohl, we hope your case will not be this tragic, but it will still need to be handled skillfully.  If a loved one has died while in custody, contact an experienced, Kentucky law firm to represent you.

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