TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A woman who refused to leave a hospital when doctors discharged her died after she was forcibly removed by police, authorities said Tuesday.
Barbara Dawson, 57, collapsed Monday while being escorted in handcuffs from the Liberty Calhoun Hospital, where she went to seek treatment for breathing difficulties, said Blountstown Police Department chief Mark Mallory. Mallory said an officer had arrested Dawson for disorderly conduct and trespassing.
An autopsy on Dawson has been performed and the results should be released Wednesday, Mallory said. Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials have been called in to investigate, department spokesman Steve Arthur said. He declined to comment further.
Mallory said that the officer who arrested Dawson removed the handcuffs after she collapsed and escorted her back into the hospital.
“We were told by a doctor once she got back in the hospital that her vital signs were good and it was their decision to readmit her,” he said. He said dashcam footage from the officer’s car does not show the incident but does pick up the audio.
Hospital officials did not return telephone calls Tuesday night. Ruth Attaway, administrator and CEO of the hospital, was quoted by The Tallahassee Democrat as saying that staff did everything they could to save Dawson.
While doctors initially thought Dawson was stable and should be released, she felt like she was still having breathing issues and wanted to stay, said Tallahassee attorney Daryl Parks, who is representing Dawson’s family.
“The most reasonable thing to do is to let her sit there and be able to settle down until she felt well. Instead, she is forcibly removed and put in cuffs,” Parks said. “The early facts of this case should cause a great concern for everyone.”
The Calhoun-Liberty County chapter of the NAACP held an emergency meeting on Tuesday. Dale R. Landry, who is the regional vice president for the Florida State chapter of the NAACP, met with local leaders and the family.
Landry said he and others are glad state law enforcement officers are getting involved, “but we strongly believe the death was due to negligence by the police department and hospital.”