Woman Dies at Kings County Hospital While Staffers Do NothingJul 2, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Last night’s news led with graphic video evidence of medical malpractice taken two weeks ago by a Kings County Hospital Center (KCHC) surveillance camera of a patient writhing on the floor while other patients and staffers seemed to be ignoring her.
Esman Green, a 49-year-old Jamaican woman and patient at the Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn was allowed to die last month, unattended and seemingly ignored, on the floor of the Kings County psychiatric emergency ward, according to officials. The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) released the video, which shows Green slumping out of her chair and going into convulsions as workers and fellow patients walked by her, doing nothing. Green had been in the King’s County psychiatric ward waiting area for over 24 hours. She was later pronounced dead.
Following her June 19 death, Green's body was moved to the morgue, where it remained until city officials decided to pay for both the cost of the funeral and shipment of her remains back to Jamaica, according to Donna Lieberman, head of the NYCLU who also stated that hospital records state Green was awake and heading to the bathroom when the video showed she was face down on the floor. The NYCLU also says hospital workers falsified the time scale of the incident on Green's medical records. "We are shocked and distressed by this situation. It is clear that some of our employees failed to act based on our compassionate standards of care," said city Health and Hospitals Corporation president Alan D. Aviles yesterday.
Meanwhile, federal and city investigators are considering possible criminal charges and Health and Hospitals Services suspended and fired the staffers involved.
City officials turned over the surveillance video to attorneys for the NYCLU and to mental health advocates in connection with a civil-rights lawsuit filed a year ago over the way in which Kings County treated its psychiatric patients. The suit is expected to result today in a preliminary injunction that directs the city, which runs Kings County, to increase its staffing and improve its procedures at the Kings County psychiatric emergency room. "I can't explain what happened there," said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg of the incident. "I think what they said was, 'Oh well people sleep on the floor all the time and I didn't pay any attention.' They shouldn't be sleeping on the floor, number one, and you should pay attention.
Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the Brooklyn U.S. attorney's office, said a criminal civil-rights investigation into KHCH, initiated earlier based on other complaints, will now also review the death. A spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney's office said any suspected criminality referred to it by the Department of Investigation would be prosecuted. A DOI spokeswoman said the agency was "aware" of the incident.
"The reason why this woman died the way she did is because there is a culture of indifference to patients that permeates every aspect of KCHC's psychiatric care. Nothing short of that," said civil rights lawyer Rob Cohen.