The family members of a 30-year-old woman who died in police custody of a treatable heart infection have filed a lawsuit against the city of Springfield and the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department.
Madelyn Linsenmeir of Vermont was an intravenous drug addict and was arrested in Massachusetts in Sept. 2018 on a probation-related arrest warrant.
Video footage shows Linsenmeir asking for water and telling police officers that she felt chest pain and might need to go to the hospital.
The lawsuit alleges that officers didn’t listen to her requests and told her that it was her own fault for using drugs.
“At least in part because the WCC’s policy was to deny medically appropriate care to people suffering from withdrawal, its staff were acclimated to be deliberately indifferent to the medical complaints made by or on behalf of incarcerated opioid users, and to intentionally discriminate against such detainees because of their history of opioid use,” the lawsuit states.
On Oct. 4 2018, Linsenmeir was rushed to the hospital after jail staff noticed she was in severe distress constituting a medical emergency. She died a few days later of infective endocarditis, which is treatable.
A month before her final arrest, Linsenmeir got permission from a judge to go back to Vermont to finish her probation, where she had family and could receive medical treatment and substance abuse treatment.
“On or about Aug. 20, 2018, Madelyn stopped going to the treatment facility in Vermont. Her family did not know where she was. She ultimately made her way to Massachusetts,” the lawsuit states. “Madelyn’s departure from Vermont triggered the issuance of a probation-related arrest warrant from New Hampshire.”
“Our family is heartbroken to have lost our beloved girl and deeply troubled by her unnecessary, preventable death,” said the family in a statement. “In Maddie’s name, we will continue to advocate for the humane treatment of people everywhere who struggle with substance use disorder, especially those who are at the mercy of a criminal justice system that is clearly not equipped to respond to the opioid crisis.”
“There is no excuse for Madelyn Linsenmeir’s mistreatment and subsequent death,” Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, said in a statement. “Police are accountable for the safety, health and well-being of all people in custody.
“People in jails and prisons do not forfeit their right to adequate, timely health care just because they are behind bars — and people suffering from addiction deserve just treatment.”