Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2004 The Washington Post Company
Author: Manny Fernandez, Washington Post Staff Writer
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/people/Magbie (Jonathan Magbie)
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmj.htm (Cannabis - Medicinal)
INSPECTOR GENERAL TO PROBE D.C. INMATE DEATH
Quadriplegic Man Had Respiratory Failure
The D.C. inspector general's office has launched an inquiry into the
death of Jonathan Magbie, the quadriplegic inmate who died in
September after suffering breathing problems.
Magbie's family began pressing for an investigation soon after his
death, raising questions about his treatment by the courts, the D.C.
Department of Corrections and Greater Southeast Community Hospital,
where he died Sept. 24. The central issue is whether authorities were
equipped to handle a patient with Magbie's health problems while he
served a 10-day sentence on a drug charge.
Interim Inspector General Austin A. Andersen said yesterday that the
inquiry will review probes that have been done by other D.C. agencies,
evaluate policies and procedures and determine whether they were
properly followed. The various reviews include one that was recently
completed by the D.C. Department of Health, which found that the
hospital had failed to provide Magbie with adequate care.
Andersen said his office will examine the other probes and conduct an
investigation into what took place. "We're planning on going through
it from top to bottom," he said.
City Administrator Robert C. Bobb said he asked the inspector general
to conduct the investigation. Results are expected early next year,
though no firm deadline was set.
Bobb said he wanted the inspector general to look into the Health
Department's report as well as other reviews of the case, including
those by the D.C. Department of Corrections and Greater Southeast.
"I want to satisfy myself that everything that we did in this case,
throughout this entire chain of events, was done appropriately and
consistent with best practices and our own policies," Bobb said yesterday.
Bobb's request for an investigation was reported by WTOP radio
Magbie, 27, of Mitchellville, was paralyzed from the neck down after
he was struck by a drunk driver when he was 4. He used a motorized
wheelchair that he operated with his chin. He wound up in legal
trouble in April 2003 when he was arrested while riding with a cousin
in his family's Hummer in Southeast Washington. D.C. police found
cocaine, marijuana and a gun in the vehicle.
Magbie pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of marijuana. D.C.
Superior Court Judge Judith E. Retchin gave him the jail sentence,
noting the presence of the gun in the Hummer and Magbie's insistence
that he would continue to smoke marijuana because it made him feel
better. A pre-sentence report had recommended probation, and
prosecutors did not object to giving Magbie probation.
Retchin had said that she was led to believe that Magbie's medical
needs could be met by corrections officials.
Hours after he arrived at the D.C. jail Sept. 20, Magbie had
difficulty breathing. He told a jail nurse that he used a ventilator
to help him breathe at night, according to the Health Department's
investigation. The jail did not have such equipment, and he was taken
to the emergency room at Greater Southeast.
The Health Department said that an emergency room doctor erred by
releasing Magbie to the jail's care Sept. 21 without addressing his
ventilator needs at night. The doctor, however, maintains that
Magbie's breathing stabilized and that the jail could aid him with
Magbie ended up returning to Greater Southeast on Sept. 24 because of
breathing problems, and he died later that day of acute respiratory
Magbie's mother, Mary Scott, has said that she holds the judge, the
jail and the hospital responsible for her son's death. She did not
return messages yesterday.
Joan Phillips, Greater Southeast's chief executive, defended the care
the hospital provided Magbie and said she welcomed "objective
investigations." She said the hospital is conducting two reviews that
will examine decision-making by its doctors, communication and other
clinical issues stemming from the case.
"I do think that everything that we did was according to practice,"
Leah Gurowitz, a D.C. Superior Court spokeswoman, said Chief Judge
Rufus G. King III is reviewing procedures for transferring inmates and
looking into whether communication can be improved between the courts
and the jail.
Corrections officials have said that Magbie received "all the
necessary treatment" while in custody. A corrections spokesman said
the department has cooperated with previous investigations and will do
so with the inspector general's inquiry.