Thursday, December 24, 2009

Decline in Inmate Death Rate; Rise in Preventable Deaths

The Federal Receiver's office has recently released information regarding the 2008 inmate death reviews. According to the report, there is an overall decline in inmate deaths, from 248.6 to 215.5 per 100,000 inmates.

Out of a total of 369 deaths, 122 - the largest category - were due to cancer. Suicides, accounting for 38 deaths, come in second as causes of death. The report classifies 17% of deaths as "possibly preventable". Out of the 303 non-preventable causes, cancer, suicide, and liver disease are the leading causes, which, as the report states, are "not unexpected given the high incidence of smoking, drug abuse and depression in the incarcerated population". Out of the 61 possibly preventable deaths, cancer, sudden cardiac arrest, and pneumonia top the list. The most common lapses in care identified by the report are misdiagnosis (81 cases) and lack of access to appropriate care (25 cases). The report finds strong causal connections between the identified lapses in care and preventable deaths.

The report also provides some interesting discussion of preventability, which, as it states, is "in the eye of the beholder". The multiple lapses of care are, of course, a cause for concern, but I for one am thankful for the transparency of information.

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