Saturday, January 22, 2005

Teenaged Diabetic Inmate Dies for Lack of Insulin

As usual, I'm running all over the place this weekend, but here's a story I received via my friend Rachel, who also has a son with diabetes:

January 15, 2005
Family sues over inmate's jail death
The Associated Press

The family of a 15-year-old inmate who died in the Forrest County jail last March has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Sheriff Billy McGee and two jail employees. Hattiesburg attorney Jay Jernigan filed the lawsuit this week in Forrest County Circuit Court on behalf of Malcolm Simmons' family. The family is seeking $5 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages.

An autopsy showed Simmons died of hyperglycemia, a condition consistent with diabetes.

"Had he gotten just one shot of diabetic insulin, he would be alive today," Jernigan said. {more}

I can't even tell you how much this story upsets me. Type 1 Diabetes is a LIFETHREATENING condition. That means if my son, if Rachel's son, if ANYONE with this condition is deprived of insulin--THEY DIE. That simple.

Although this young man had committed a crime and was awaiting transfer to a youth offenders program, he didn't deserve TO DIE a long, painful death from DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis, a complication of high blood sugars). Our son was in DKA at diagnosis, and he had been losing weight steadily for two weeks. Near the end of the ordeal, he could not speak or move and could barely breathe. We were told later that he had been hovering at the brink of coma. It wasn't pretty. And, erm, YES, WE KNEW SOMETHING WAS WRONG. So we took him to the ER, learned he had diabetes, and the doctors treated and stabilized him.

This young man didn't know he was diabetic; it is a disease that develops over time. DKA can be hard to diagnose in its early stages (the weight loss, etc.) because it looks a lot like a flu bug. That's what we thought was wrong with our son initially, and even the pediatrician told us it was strep throat and sent us home.

However, at a certain point, it is pretty clear there is something seriously wrong with the person. When our son could no longer TALK to us and could only BLINK for yes or no, when he began hyperventilating and could no longer STAND, we said, "Screw the pediatrician. We're going to the ER."

I know other parents whose children were in coma at diagnosis. If someone does not wake up, YOU TAKE THEM TO THE HOSPITAL. Their kids are fine now.

It is NOT POSSIBLE that this young man up and died without losing consciousness and showing other signs of being seriously, seriously ill.

It absolutely breaks my heart that prison officials would let Malcolm get sicker and sicker and finally let him DIE.

I'm so angry about this story, I can barely think straight.