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When a loved one is denied medical care while in police custody

The police are supposed to treat everyone equally -- even the people that they arrest. Some officers seem to have missed that part of their training or may simply be so jaded that they automatically assume that anyone under arrest who seems sick is faking it -- no matter how serious the symptoms.

Police officers enjoy a limited form of immunity for ordinary mistakes made during the course of their official duties -- but they aren't immune to lawsuits when their conduct is intentionally unreasonable. Nor can they deprive someone of his or her civil rights with impunity.

For example, the Fourth Amendment has been interpreted to mean that police are required to provide timely care to someone in their custody with a need for medical treatment. When that doesn't happen, people needlessly die.

For example, a 25-year-old Texas woman who had a history of arrests and meth addiction was detained while police searched her boyfriend's car. When close to 9 ounces of a methamphetamine were found under the hood, the police put the cuffs on her.

According to the police, that's when the woman's demeanor changed. She suddenly went from conversational and joking to complaining that she felt sick. The officers mockingly called it "jailitis," their term for any illness they deemed to be nothing more than a ruse to avoid jail.

She still couldn't convince them that she was actually sick even when she threw up -- twice. Nor did the convulsions in the lower half of her body, difficulty breathing or the fact that she became unresponsive sway their opinion.

After an hour or so, the officers finally did call an ambulance but told the ambulance company it was no rush -- in their opinion, this was still just an elaborate con job.

Unfortunately for their prisoner, it wasn't. Her heart stopped beating in the ambulance on the way to the hospital and she eventually died.

This is the kind of avoidable tragedy that happens when officers of the law decide that they can make medical judgments instead of getting their prisoners appropriate care. If your loved one died as a result of being denied medical care while in police custody, a wrongful death attorney can provide information on your legal options.

Source: FindLaw, "Wrongful Death by Police," accessed April 07, 2017

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Brian Jensen

Representation in the Houston Area with 3 Convenient Locations:

Bellaire Office
Frost Bank Building, 6750 West Loop South, Suite 800
Bellaire, TX 77401

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