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Washington State pays $3.25M over inmate’s ‘inhumane’ death

On Behalf of | Jul 12, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

The state Department of Corrections (DOC) has agreed to pay an inmate’s family $3.25 million for a wrongful death claim after acknowledging that the prisoner at Monroe Correctional Complex received negligent medical care.

The settlement is over the August 2018 death of John Kleutsch, 57, who suffered for weeks in the prison infirmary before dying of septic shock, a perforated intestine and acute pancreatitis. None of those conditions were diagnosed at the prison.

A failure to provide basic medical care

Kleutsch received outpatient cancer surgery and was returned to the Monroe facility’s infirmary to recover. The lawsuit says that the prison’s former medical director, Dr. Julia Barnett, and other staff members failed to properly treat an abdominal incision that didn’t heal properly.

The wound quickly grew worse, and Kleutsch pleaded with the staff to help him. But medical records show he was only offered over-the-counter Tylenol for his pain. Citing his worsening condition, a nurse asked Barnett to transfer him to a hospital, but she refused.

As his condition continued to deteriorate, he could no longer consume food by mouth. However, the medical staff forgot and didn’t administer intravenous fluids for more than a day, leaving Kleutsch severely dehydrated. He was finally sent to a hospital emergency room, but it was too late, and he died shortly after.

“No choice but to acknowledge fault”

The case was set to go to trial back in March when the DOC admitted negligence over Kleutsch’s medical treatment. The department cited a “mountain of evidence.” The DOC also said it expected more shocking facts to emerge over Dr. Barnett, who was fired in April 2019. Her medical license remains suspended by the state.

The inmate’s wife, Julia Kleutsch, who filed the lawsuit, said her husband suffered terribly before he died. Furthermore, she said the family was never informed that the state failed to provide basic care and that their negligence caused his death. This case and others have led the state to investigate medical care at the DOC and increase budgets and staffing.