Officials Defend Treatment Of Homeless Mother Who Died After Being Taken From ER To Jail

March 30, 2012  |  

Officials at St. Mary’s Health Center in St. Louis are claiming the treatment they gave a 29-year-old homeless woman who went to the hospital for a sprained ankle and later died in police custody after refusing to leave the ER, appropriate.

Anna Brown’s September death inside a St. Louis jail cell was determined to be caused by blood clots that formed in her legs and migrated to her lungs. Brown reportedly went to three hospitals complaining of leg pain in the days prior to her death, including the visit to St. Mary’s that led to her arrest for trespassing. Brown was wheeled out of the facility in handcuffs after a doctor said she was healthy enough to be locked up and  officers say they had no reason to think otherwise.

“A lot of times people don’t want to stay in jail and will claim to be sick,” Acting Police Chief Maj. Roy Wright said. “We depend on medical officials to tell us they’re OK.”

According to an official statement from St. Mary’s, to the best of their knowledge she was.

“Unfortunately, even with appropriate testing using sophisticated technology, blood clots can still be undetected in a small number of cases,” they said. “The sad reality is that emergency departments across the country are often a place of last resort for many people in our society who suffer from complex social problems that become medical issues when they are not addressed. It is unfortunate that it takes a tragic event like this to call attention to a crisis in our midst.”

Brown’s life had been on a downward spiral since a tornado destroyed her home in 2010. The mother moved to a St. Louis suburb with her children following the tragedy, but shortly after she lost her job in a sandwich shop. Because Brown couldn’t pay her bills, her utilities were shut off and when a child welfare agent visited her home in April, the toilet was found filled with feces and there were burn marks on the floor where she had lit fires to keep warm. Brown was arrested for parental neglect and her mother, Dorothy Davis, received custody of her children on the condition that their mother couldn’t also live with them. With her home condemned, Brown lived in four homeless shelters from May until September. She also joined the St. Louis Empowerment Center, a drop-in center for the mentally ill.

Davis says her daughter called everyday to check on her children, and now she has a responsibility to tell them what happened to their mother.

“If the police killed my daughter, I want to know. If the hospital is at fault, I want to know,” she told the Post-Dispatch. “I want to be able to tell her children why their mother isn’t here.”

The family believes Brown was treated unfairly and they’ve hired a lawyer to help them prove it. According to Brown’s sister Krystle:

“My sister is not here today because people passed judgment.”

What do you think about this case? Is anyone at fault for Anna Brown’s death?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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