Woman’s death in Delco jailhouse leaves unanswered questions
Sandy Morgan, a 38-year-old college graduate from Aston PA, died in March 2006, after 5 weeks in the George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Thornton, PA. She was serving time for shoplifting at Wal-Mart. Morgan’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the jail and the company who runs it, GEO, as well as Crozer-Chester, the hospital that released her a few weeks before the arrest.
According to this article, Morgan was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at age 18 and also suffered from hyperthyroidism. She was declared incompetent to stand trial so she waited in jail for 5 weeks. It was only a couple weeks before her arrest that she was committed by her family to Crozer-Chester Hospital, where she was forced to take her psychotropic medication. Her initial psychiatrist suggested she be sent to Norristown State Hospital for more treatment and to help her stay on her meds. Several days later, another psychiatrist, Usha Kotihal, inexplicably took over Morgan’s care and determined that her mental state had improved; she no longer posed a threat to herself or others, and could be sent home. It was nine days after her release that police arrested her at Wal-Mart, charged her with retail theft, defiant trespass, and disorderly conduct, and sent her to jail.
Upon arrival to George W. Hill Correctional Facility, Morgan did not disclose her schizophrenia or hyperthyroidism, but a physician’s assistant determined her to be “mentally retarded or mentally ill.” According to the policies of the GEO Group Inc., which ran the jail, mentally unstable inmates should be transported immediately to a hospital.
Psychiatrists at the jail determined her to be schizophrenic and prescribed medication, but they did not know of her hyperthyroid condition. According to the article, none of them contacted her family to ask about medications she’d been taking nor did they contact the doctors who treated her at Crozer-Chester. A caseworker for Morgan indicated that she spoke with a mental health liaison at the Correctional Facility and told him about both of her conditions; however, the liaison said he did not remember speaking to the caseworker. Morgan’s family also claims to have made calls to the jail explaining their sister’s conditions.
Another public defender petitioned to have her transferred to Norristown State Hospital, but the turn around time was not fast enough. According to the article, Morgan became “hostile and withdrawn” and on March 25, 2006, a nurse found her convulsing. Jail medical staff tried reviving her as well as administering an anti-seizure drug, but did not call 911 for several hours. She was taken to Riddle Memorial Hospital and died a few days later.
The autopsy revealed that Morgan died from profound hypothyroidism with probable myxedema coma. A check of her vital signs should have indicated to nurses at the jail that something was wrong.
In July 2007, Sandy Morgan's family filed a medical malpractice lawsuit that accuses Kotihal of "abandoning" Sandy Morgan, discharging her without proper prescriptions, a post-treatment plan, or a call to the family explaining why she was not being sent to the state hospital. Morgan's family also argues that the jail was ill-prepared to care for their sister and should have sent her to a mental-health facility. Lawyers for the GEO Group and jail staff dispute the cause of death, saying that Sandy showed no signs of medical distress until she collapsed. They said it was her family's responsibility to inform them of her thyroid condition.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice in Pennsylvania, please contact Cherry Fieger and Marciano, LLP today for a free consultation with a Philadelphia PA medical malpractice attorney.
In severe cases of medical malpractice a patient dies as a result of the negligence by the healthcare provider, the patient has been the victim of medical malpractice and wrongful death. In most cases, a wrongful death claim may be handled along with a medical malpractice claim.