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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Study Shows Inmates' Deaths Were Preventable

From latimes.com: As many as one in six deaths of California prison inmates last year might have been preventable, according to a study of medical care in 32 state lockups that will be used to help rebuild the troubled system.

The report, released Wednesday by the court-appointed receiver in charge of healthcare for the state's 173,000 prisoners, revealed a broad pattern of delays in diagnosis, poor inmate access to doctors and tests, botched handling of medical records, and failure of medical staff to recognize and treat dangerous conditions.

Officials said some lapses led to disciplinary actions against doctors and nurses.

There were 426 deaths in 2006, including 43 suicides, and the study examined 381 of them.

Eighteen deaths were found to be preventable, meaning better medical management or a better system of care would have prevented deaths. An additional 48 were found to be "possibly preventable," meaning better medical management of a system of care might have prevented death.

Of the deaths considered preventable, six were from asthma, which receiver Robert Sillen said he intended to make a priority for reforms.

"The leading cause of [preventable] death being asthma is unconscionable, and it is evidence of systemic problems and problems with individual clinical judgments," Sillen said in an interview. "Adults in 21st century California should not have asthma as a primary cause of death."

Sillen said the report, which concluded that problems such as human error, staffing shortages and poor medical records contributed to unnecessary deaths, provided additional evidence that the state's $1.5-billion-a-year medical care system needed to be rebuilt from the bottom up.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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