Barbara Dawson (1958-2015), a Black American woman, died soon after police forcibly removed her from Calhoun Liberty Hospital in Blountstown, a small town in the Florida Panhandle. This was four days before Christmas,
At 10.30pm on the night of December 20th 2015, she was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. She had stomach pains.
Before dawn the next morning, the hospital discharged her. It said her condition was stable. She said she was still in pain and had trouble breathing.
At 4.46am the hospital called the police. The police say it was because:
“she was causing a disturbance in the hospital with her language and the volume of her voice.”
Officer John Tadlock arrived. He told her she could either leave peacefully or he would arrest her and take her to jail.
She said she did not want to leave, she did not want to die. She kept saying, “Help me!” and “I can’t breathe!” Neither the hospital nor the police took her seriously. Instead they took away her oxygen and had her arrested for trespassing and disorderly conduct.
Even after she suddenly dropped to ground just outside the hospital, they still did not take it seriously. Tadlock:
“Ms Dawson, falling down like this and laying down, that’s not going to stop you from going to jail.”
For two and a half minutes after she dropped no one thought to make sure she was all right. Instead they were concerned about how to get her in the police car to take her to jail.
When a nurse did check her, she said her breathing and heartbeat were fine. It was the same nine minutes later.
But when a doctor arrived, 18 minutes after she dropped, and checked, he said:
“This is totally different than what she was when I was discharging her.”
They brought her back in the hospital and did CPR: her breathing had stopped.
At 6.24am the doctor said she was dead.
The medical examiner said she died of a blood clot in the lungs.
On January 6th 2016, her family’s lawyers made public the police dashcam video. You cannot see much, but you can hear the whole thing. Her family is taking the hospital and the police to court for negligence.
On January 11th, the hospital put one worker on unpaid leave and took two others off of patient care – for showing a “lack of compassion”. It also said a task force of outside experts and leaders will look into the matter and report back in 90 days, suggesting needed changes.
As it turns out, the hospital had called the police on Dawson before: in 2006, 2012, 2013 and in August 2015. The 2012 case was much like this one, except that instead of jail they let her stay at the hospital another day.
The police, meanwhile, maintain their innocence.
State Representative Darryl Rouson:
“We think what they did was put criminality over health care. We think what they did here was compromise public safety by failing to give her the medical attention that she needed.”
– Abagond, 2016.
- The hearts of white people: the science
- Black American women who died in police custody in 2015:
- Also in Florida:
- medical apartheid
- The police