In late September 2018, Madelyn Linsenmeir was booked on a New Hampshire warrant on charges of giving false information to a law enforcement officer. She told these law enforcement officers that she was having difficulty breathing and felt like her chest was going to “cave in.” She told the officer booking her that felt like passing out from the pain. Surveillance video confirms the account.
Linsenmeir was a longtime opiate addict and informed the police she needed immediate hospitalization. Instead, she was put in a jail cell, and transferred to the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center the following day. She begged for medical help at both facilities, but none was forthcoming. Six days later, Linsenmeir was found unconscious in her cell. She was finally brought to a hospital, where she succumbed to a heart infection four days later.
Her family filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Linsenmeir died from a treatable infection due to officials’ indifference to her constant pleas for medical help.
Because of her opioid addiction, the staff at the jails thought she was “dope sick,” the term used for addicts going through the throes of withdrawal. According to the lawsuit, the staff at the county correctional center told her the illness was her own fault for using drugs. Linsenmeir, familiar with being dope sick, insisted it was much worse. Even the women sharing her cell began asking the staff to get help for Linsenmeir.
In fact, what was causing Linsenmeir’s condition was infective endocarditis, a heart valve infection. Those with a history of intravenous drug use, like Linsenmeir, are at greater risk for the disease.
Linsenmeir’s death struck a chord nationally after her sister, Kate O’Neil, wrote about Madelyn’s struggle with drugs in a Vermont newspaper. Linsenmeir grew up as an outdoorsy, athletic young woman, and moved to Florida during high school. It was there she started using OxyContin, sampling the drug at a party, and the “relationship with opiates” would dominate the rest of her life, her sister recalls.
Over the years, Linsenmeir had been a sex-trafficking victim, arrested on drug charges, beaten and raped, and branded with a curling iron. Diagnosed with PTSD as well as drug addiction, she spent a month at a Vermont rehab center, leaving the facility and disappearing for about a month before she sent text messages to her sister and mother the night before her arrest.
The messages reveal that Linsenmeir now weighed just 90 pounds and thought she was dying.
Callousness and Indifference
As the lawsuit states, the medical staff at the facilities did not treat Linsenmeir, even though she pleaded for help. In addition, she was suffering from a swollen foot and could barely walk. No medical attention was given, even though her discomfort and lack of mobility was obvious.
Knowing she was going through withdrawal, there was no monitoring for drug use complications. No one even bothered to take her vital signs. Basically, all Linsenmeir received was callousness and indifference from jail staff.
Her family expressed fear that others in custody are suffering from the same callousness and indifference, and asked that those in custody receive humane treatment and given proper evaluation and necessary medical care.
Inmates have the right not to be abused and the right to proper medical treatment. If you or a loved one has suffered mistreatment in jail or prison, you have legal options and may be entitled to compensation. CALL US at 866.836.4684 or Connect Online to learn how we can help you file a federal civil rights lawsuit.