Danalee Pascua, a California nurse, faces up to four years in prison if convicted of the charge stemming from the Nov. 11, 2019, death of Elisa Serna at the Las Colinas Detention Facility in the San Diego suburb of Santee, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office said.
This comes after the nurse was accused of walking away from a 24-year-old inmate who collapsed in front of her on a cell floor before she died.
According to prosecutors, Serna passed out in front of Pascua the next day and the nurse did not check her vital signs and instead left her on the floor for about an hour before returning with deputies to begin ‘futile lifesaving measures.
The sheriff’s department initially said Serna died from complications of drug abuse, with a contributing factor of early intrauterine pregnancy.
The victim’s family filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the county last year, alleging jail staff knew she had used heroin before she was booked and was vomiting and showing “obvious signs of medical distress,” but did not provide her medical treatment.
“There is nothing more sacred than the sanctity of life and when that life is in the custody and care of government, it must be safeguarded and provided with the appropriate medical care,” San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said in a statement.
“The evidence in the in-custody death of Elisa Serna demonstrates criminal negligence that contributed to her death.”
The number of deaths among incarcerated people in the U.S. has increased every year that the Bureau of Justice Statistics has tracked these data and now exceeds5000 annually.
1 Nearly nine in 10 (88%) such deaths are due to medical illness (most commonly cancer, heart disease, or liver disease), reflecting the rapid aging of the incarcerated population.
Despite these trends, palliative care services are typically limited in jails and prisons and most correctional facilities are not optimally designed to provide community-standard patient-centered care for patients with life-limiting illness.
Meanwhile, the National Health Service Litigation Authority (NHSLA) reports that more than 8,000 patients have died as a result of medical negligence in the past 13 years.
Pascua is scheduled to be arraigned November 18. The District Attorney’s office did not immediately respond to an email asking if Pascua had an attorney yet.
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