HILLSBORO, OR – The morning of April 23, 2014, Madaline Pitkin tried to get some breakfast. She was in the Washington County Jail in Hillsboro after having been arrested a week before by Tualatin Police for possession of heroin, to which she was admittedly addicted.
She never made it to the jail’s breakfast pod.
She returned to her cell before eating. She was bent at the waist, feeling the effects of withdrawing from heroin. From her cell she filled out her fourth Health Care Request form, the only way that inmates could communicate with the medical staff.
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“This is a 3rd or 4th call for help,” she wrote. “I haven’t been able to keep food, liquids, meds down in days … I feel like I am very close to death. Can’t hear, seeing lights, hearing voices. Please help me …”
The next morning, a deputy saw Pitkin in her cell, sweating profusely, looking bad. He asked a registered nurse from Corizon Health, which provided health care at the jail, to go check in Pitkin.
The nurse refused, saying she had to check a diabetic inmate. The deputy insisted and the nurse agreed to check on Pitkin after the diabetic inmate.
When the nurse arrived, Pitkin was lying on the floor with brown fluid leaking from mouth and nose, eyes open, mouth weakly moving with one arm moving/twitching.
EMS arrived soon after but it was too late. Pitkin had died. She was 26 years old.
Two years later, Pitkin’s parents – Russell and Mary – filed a lawsuit charging that Corizon had violated their own rules, had failed in their treatment, and by doing so, had caused her death.
“At each stage in her incarceration at the Washington County Jail ,Ms. Pitkin’s serious medical needs were met with deliberate indifference,” the Pitkins’s legal team wrote in a court filing.
“She could have been saved.”
A federal judge agreed.
On Friday, a $10 million settlement was reached, half of what was asked for when the suit was filed.
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The CEO of Corizon Steve Rector released a statement pointing out that he had not been at the company when Pitkin died.
He added that the company has gone through a significant restructuring and that the amount of the settlement “reflects how far removed the facts of this case are from our standards and expectations of care.
“For whatever small comfort this may provide, the lessons we’ve learned from this case have been catalysts for significant changes we have made and are still making to our clinical program.”
At a press conference after the settlement was announced, Madaline’s father said that his daughter “was smart, beautiful, talented, funny and a person who stood up for others. So, we felt we needed to stand up for her.”
Photo via Shutterstock.