The teenage inmate complained of serious chest pain–and was prescribed a bottle of Ibuprofen and antacids.
The family of an 18-year old who died in a Fulton County, Georgia, jail has filed a lawsuit against the facility’s health care provider, claiming the high school student’s death could have been prevented.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Tyrique Jameal Tookes was found dead in his cell in Full County Jail on May 4, 2019.
Tookes, notes the Journal-Constitution, had complained of chest pain for two weeks before his death. Now, his family’s lawsuit claims that he would still be alive if the jail’s health care staff had taken his complaints seriously and taken him to the hospital for X-rays.
The complaint states that Tookes’ official cause of death is listed as cardiac tamponade as the result of a ruptured aorta.
While Tookes seemed in good health when he was booked into Fulton on March 8, he began experiencing severe chest pain several weeks later.
On April 27, Tookes was examined in the jail’s medical center after complaining of chest tightness, “constant intense aching pain,” and heart palpitations. Although Tookes himself rated the pain as a “ten out of ten,” in terms of severity, a physician investigated his case as one of possible heartburn.
Tooke saws then given ice packs and Ibuprofen, with instructions to return to the health clinic if he had any further problems.
Even though jail staff continued to monitor Tookes’ condition, they never prescribed anything other than antacids—and even canceled one of the teenager’s follow-up appoints.
Mawuli Davis, an attorney for the Tookes family, said his clients believe that Fulton County and its health contractor, NaphCare, were negligent and directly responsible for Tookes’ death.
“From our perspective,” Davis said, “they were grossly negligent in their actions.”
The lawsuit names as defendants Fulton County Jail health contractor NaphCare, along with several individual doctors and nurses.
NaphCare, notes the Journal, was awarded a $20 million contract to provide health services to the Fulton County Jail after nearly a half-dozen inmates died over the course of a 75-day period.
While NapCare declined the Journal’s request for comment, the company did release a statement reiterating its commitment to patient care.
“The death of Tyrique Tookes is a tragedy, and we are deeply saddened by this loss of life,” the company said in an emailed statement. “NaphCare is unable to provide additional comment in light of pending litigation. We stand behind the quality of care provided to our patients and remain committed to providing the highest quality healthcare to every patient.”
Nevertheless, Davis and the Tookes family insist that Tyrique died because NaphCare and the Fulton County Jail failed him.
“This young man’s life was just not valued,” Davis said. “If any individual who were not incarcerated said, ‘I’m having severe chest pains,’ they would immediately be taken to the emergency room and treated.”
Davis further said that Tookes’ death is indicative of a system which values “profit over people.”
“They are in their custody and care, and the companies have a responsibility to ensure their safety,” Davis said.