Healthcare News & Insights

Woman dies in jail after being kicked out of ER

A 29-year-old mother of two died in jail after being arrested for trespassing in a hospital emergency room.

Anna Brown had gone to three hospitals in the course of a week seeking treatment for a sprained ankle that had gotten increasingly painful — to the point that she was using a wheelchair to get around.Within hours of being kicked out of the last ER as a “drug-seeker,” she was found dead on the floor of her jail cell. Cause of death: blood clots that had traveled from her legs to her lungs.

Now her family would like to know just what went wrong.

Here first hospital visit, to St. Louis University Hospital, began last September 13. She stayed for two days for additional testing, but hospital officials said there was no indication at that point that she had a blood clot in her leg.

Four days after she was discharged, she arrived on crutches for what would turn out to be her final visit with her children, ages 11 and 2.

On Sept. 20, she went back to SLU Hospital complaining of knee and ankle pain. Doctors there said X-rays were negative and she was given painkillers — but she refused to leave the hospital, claiming that they hadn’t sufficiently treated her. After police arrived, she wheeled herself to a nearby pediatric hospital. Doctors there found she had significant tenderness in both legs. Eventually she was taken by ambulance to St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond Heights, Missouri.

Doctors there said that ultrasounds of both legs were negative for blood clots. A social worker at the hospital gave her a list of local shelters and a number to call for transportation. Brown left, but returned within a few hours, complaining of continued pain. The hospital discharged her at 7 a.m., but Brown refused to sign the papers.

Shortly after, the hospital called police to have her arrested for trespassing. Brown complained repeatedly that she was in severe pain, could not stand and needed further medical care. Instead, a doctor at the hospital issued a “Fit for Confinement” report, indicating that Brown was well enough to be arrested.

Police had to literally pull Brown from the patrol car and into jail. Notes in her booking report listed “suspected drug use” and “unknown leg pain.” Brown was carried into a cell and left on her back on the floor of the cell.

An officer monitoring the cell by camera noted that she was moaning and moving slightly — until she stopped moving around 2 p.m. The officer thought she had fallen asleep. Fifteen minutes later, she was found unresponsive and attempts to revive her failed. She was taken back to St. Mary’s where she was declared dead.

Autopsy results showed no drugs in her system.

Brown had gone through a rough patch in life in the year leading up to her death: One home was destroyed by a tornado, she lost her job and then her second home was condemned. She was left homeless, and unable to care for her two children who were taken in by her mother.(State child protective services were supervising the children, and wouldn’t allow Brown to live in the home with them).

Brown passed required drug tests, but results of a screen for mental or behavioral illnesses was inconclusive. She resisted a court-ordered psychological evaluation because, according to her caseworker, she didn’t understand how it differed from the other tests she had undergone.

It’s debatable if Brown, homeless and seemingly mentally unstable was simply pigeon-holed as yet another drug-seeking scam artist in the ER. For it’s part, St. Mary’s says a review of her medical records indicates that it did everything correctly in terms of trying to diagnose and treat her and that is simply a case of a missed diagnosis.

Brown’s family is less certain. They’ve hired a lawyer to investigate the matter, but as of yet have not filed suit. The family feels strongly that Brown’s complaints were not taken seriously by at least some of the health care professionals who treated her. Her sister, Krystle Brown said in a statement to the local media: “My sister is not here today because people passed judgment.”

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  1. In spite of severe cramps and breathing difficulties, I was told to leave the hospital in Crestview Florida because their tests could find nothing wrong with me. It was later determined that I was suffering from the bite of a Black Widow Spider. Such treatment flies in the face of what we should expect from our “professional” caregivers. Mrs. Brown deserved better. We all deserve better.