Lawsuit: Denial of Medical Care Led to Madelyn Linsenmeir's Death | Off Message

Lawsuit: Denial of Medical Care Led to Madelyn Linsenmeir's Death

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Madelyn Linsenmeir being booked in Springfield, Mass. - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Madelyn Linsenmeir being booked in Springfield, Mass.
The estate of Madelyn Linsenmeir, whose viral obituary in Seven Days led to to the newspaper's "Hooked" series about the opioid crisis last year, has sued law enforcement authorities in Massachusetts, where she died in custody.

The wrongful death suit alleges she succumbed to a heart infection that went untreated during several days that she was held by police and in prison, despite her repeated pleas for medical help.

Linsenmeir, or "Maddie" to those who read the stories penned by her sister, Kate O'Neill, was a Burlington, Vt., native who had long suffered from opioid-use disorder. She was arrested on a probation violation warrant in Springfield, Mass., on September 29, 2018. During her booking interview, she repeatedly said she was sick and requested medical care.



"I have a really, really bad chest, like I don't know what happened to it. It feels like it's caving in," she said, as recorded on police surveillance video. "I can't breathe."

Instead of the hospital, she was taken to a cell. The next day, Linsenmeir was transported to the Women's Correctional Center in Chicopee, Mass. She was held in an "orientation unit" where staff are accustomed to "a large number of opioid users experiencing withdrawal at a given time," the suit says. She again asked for medical help, it says.
"WCC staff members told Madelyn that the situation was her own fault for using drugs," the suit asserts.

On October 4, 2018, prison staff found her in "severe distress." She was initially "unresponsive" and then "incoherent." Workers summoned an ambulance, the suit says.

Hospital staff quickly diagnosed her with endocarditis, a heart infection that can result from intravenous drug use, with complications. She was given antibiotics, and on October 5 was placed on a respirator. She died on October 8. She was 30 years old.

"If diagnosed at an appropriate time, infective endocarditis is generally treatable through medications and/or surgery," the suit states.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts and the firm Goulston & Storrs filed the suit on behalf of Maura O'Neill, Linsenmeir's sister and administrator of her estate. The only beneficiary of the estate is her son.

The suit further asserts that Springfield officials hampered efforts to find out what had happened after Linsenmeir's arrest and to shield police employees from accountability. Her family requested public records related to her death and the city claimed that none existed, the suit alleges.

"This was false," it says, adding that an investigation had already been concluded. From the suit:

During that investigation, Internal Investigation Unit personnel had coached the [Springfield Police Department] officers by showing them videos of their own interactions with Madelyn [Linsenmeir] while they prepared their written statements — a practice that placed the officers in a position to know which assertions could be contradicted by video evidence and which could not. Certain officers then produced written statements that are inconsistent with, or contradicted by, the information those same officers provided in their initial oral interview.
Edward Pikula, the Springfield city solicitor, did not immediately respond to a telephone message for comment left on Thursday afternoon.

The full complaint is here:


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"Hooked: Stories and Solutions From Vermont's Opioid Epidemic" is made possible in part by funding from the Vermont Community Foundation, the University of Vermont Health Network and Pomerleau Real Estate. The series is reported and edited by Seven Days news staff; underwriters have no influence on the content.


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