Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

CMS Overdoses Five Boston Jail Prisoners

Five prisoners at Boston's Suffolk County jail in Massachusetts were rushed to a nearby hospital after receiving the wrong medication. Jail guards found the five prisoners unconscious on the morning of September 23, 2001, after other prisoners alerted the guards by raising a commotion in their cells. Thomas Burke, Shawn Fitzpatrick, and Benjamin Neal were hospitalized after consuming Elavil, (an antidepressant with sedative effects) instead of their prescribed Viracept, (an antiviral medication for HIV treatment). The other two prisoners' complications weren't severe enough to warrant hospitalization.

St. Louis Missouri, based Corectional Medical Services (CMS) is the nation's largest private for profit prisoner health care service, which has applied for a medical service contract with the Mass. Dept. of Corrections, but MA DOC spokesman Justin Latinia said that their decision was still pending. The medical staff that distributed the wrong medication work for this firm. CMS was only a quarter of the way through a threeyear, $12 million contract which provides medical attention within the jail itself says Richard Lombardi who is Suffolk County Sheriff Richard J. Rouse's spokesman.

Jail officials commented that they were not sure how long it took for these prisoners to receive proper medical attention. They had initially assumed that these prisoners overdosed on illegal drugs, but the Boston Medical Center test showed negative results. The jail guards found wrappers marked Elavil, when they rummaged through the trash can. This evidence provided crucial treatment information for the hospital doctors.

Ken Fields, spokesman for CMS, said he was "not aware" of any drug mixup cases at the Suffolk jail or in the state's DOC system. He went on to say, "We believe it is highly unusual" for prisoners to receive the wrong prescriptions. "We're reviewing to see if this kind of situation may have occurred" before. "I'm not aware of any [happening] in the entire state of Massachusetts." If the investigation finds fault in the CMS procedures, Fields said. "We will carefully evaluate what happened and try to take steps to prevent it from occurring in the future."

Lombardi said that the error occurred when CMS staff placed the wrong drugs in envelopes. He also mentioned that no jail prisoner has ever died after receiving the wrong medication.

A mother of one of the prisoners said that her son was hospitalized for the same reason twoweeks prior.

Source: The Boston Globe

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login