by Kevin W. Bliss
Friederike Von Lintig, 57, a doctor contracted to San Diego County’s Las Colinas Detention Facility in Santee, California, was charged with involuntary manslaughter on October 26, 2022, for allegedly refusing to provide medical treatment to a detainee who died while detoxing from heroin. A jail nurse, 37-year-old Danalee Pascua, was previously hit with the same charge in November 2021 for her role in the detainee’s death.
When Elisa Serna, 24, was arrested for drug possession on November 6, 2019, she was addicted to heroin, according to a complaint later filed on her behalf. Taken to the jail, she went to the medical unit on November 11, 2019, complaining she was not feeling well and suffered a fainting spell. Despite her abnormally low blood pressure, Serna was sent back to her cell by Von Lintig. The detainee returned later that evening, but again the doctor sent her away without conducting an examination or running any tests. This time Von Lintig also did not take Serna’s vitals. In Serna’s medical file, the doctor noted her doubts that the seizure was real; instead she suspected Serna was falsifying her symptoms to seek attention.
Around 7 p.m., surveillance cameras captured nurse Pascua, then 34, standing with a guard outside Serna’s cell. They witnessed her having another seizure and banging her head against the wall. Instead of providing any type of medical assistance, however, the two simply walked away and left Serna on the floor. An hour later, she was dead.
Serna’s family has filed suit against San Diego County for her wrongful death. The suit accuses Von Lintig and Pascua of deliberate indifference to Serna’s serious medical needs, in violation of her civil rights. “During this time, Elisa can be seen on the video monitors dying and urinating on herself,” the suit reads. “No one monitored Elisa despite the fact that she had been placed in the medical observation unit. Elisa Serna died on the floor of her jail cell.”
Pascua was relieved of duty for not providing Serna assistance, in violation of jail protocols. But she won the right to continue practicing medicine while awaiting trial on bail. Serna was one of 16 people who died in San Diego County jails in 2019. The county has continued to notch record numbers of jail deaths, 18 in 2021 and 19 more in 2022. It has the highest jail mortality rate of any large county in California. [See: PLN, Nov. 2022, p.1.]
If convicted, Von Lintig and Pascua face up to four years in prison each.
Additional source: San Diego Union Tribune
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