February 1, 2011

Oregon state officials and a long list of Oregon State Hospital staff were likely not surprised they were named in this wrongful death suit. The hospital’s own internal investigation had concluded that hospital staff had not given the patient adequate medical care. The circumstances surrounding this man’s death led to the resignation of the hospital superintendent and earned the hospital perhaps unwanted attention from the U.S. Department of Justice.

At the moment, no one is commenting on the case, so we can’t really know what they’re thinking. We do know more details of the victim’s death and the days, months and years leading up to it.

According to the complaint, the victim was 42 when he died. He had been in the country for 30 years, having crossed the ocean from Cuba at age 12, he and his family crammed in a boat meant for 20 but carrying 50.He survived, and the family made it to Oregon.

In his teens, he began to act out. The “behavioral problems” were later diagnosed as schizophrenia. During a psychotic break, he attacked his mother and was convicted of attempted murder. His sentence took him to the Oregon State Hospital for mental health treatment. He’d be there for the next 15 years — the rest of his life.

His mother visited him regularly. She first tried to work with the medical staff when she saw that her son’s medications caused him to drool. Other patients made fun of him. When he complained in 2003 of skipping heartbeat and chest pain, once again she tried to alert the staff. There was no response. She urged her son, as well, to contact staff. Over the years, he commented to her and his father that he thought he would die soon.

When he did die in October of 2009, he lay in his room, across from the nurse’s station, for hours before he was found. He died of coronary artery disease.

The lawsuit is asking for $2,660 to cover the costs of his burial and memorial. The plaintiffs are also asking for an unspecified sum to compensate for the man’s “anxiety, fear, humiliation, pain and suffering.”

Source: OregonLive, “Family of dead Oregon State Hospital patient file lawsuit in federal court,” Michelle Cole (for The Oregonian), 02/09/11, updated 02/15/11



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