Family Sues Prison Officials After “Deliberate Indifference” in Addison’s-Related Death

By Rachel Whetstone from In The Cloud Copy

Justin Stufflebean was 27 years old when he died after being taken to Missouri Western Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (WRDCC). He had been there for just two days when he suffered from cardiac and respiratory arrest. Stufflebean was moved to the hospital but died two weeks later.

Brenda Davis, Stufflebean’s mother, is pursuing legal action against certain jail and prison employees.

Addison’s Disease Can Kill Quickly Without Medication

Stufflebean had Addison’s disease, a disorder of the adrenal glands. The disease can be genetic, or a result of autoimmune problems.

When a person has Addison’s, the adrenal glands can’t produce enough steroid hormones, causing pain, fatigue, and weight loss. In situations where the body is stressed, an adrenal crisis or “Addisonian crisis” may occur. This can result in low blood pressure, lower back pain, vomiting, and unconsciousness.

An adrenal crisis is considered a medical emergency and can often be deadly if not treated.

Guards and Medical Staff Were Negligent

Stufflebean was convicted of statuatory rape and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was first sent to Buchanan County Jail. The deputy overseeing the case requested that Stufflebean visit a nurse after arrival at the jail for treatment and medication related to his Addison’s disease. However, the deputy failed to confirm that the request was met.

Court documents allege that Stufflebean did see the jail nurse, but did not receive his medication, even after a formal request.

After transfer to the correctional center, Stufflebean was still missing doses of medication. He began to show indicators of Addison’s crisis like fatigue and nausea. Stufflebean saw a nurse there who ordered medication and testing, and then released him.

Soon after, Stufflebean fell out of bed and needed the use of a wheelchair. He was also having trouble eating. Another prisoner testified that the nurses had been checking Stufflebean, but not for longer than two minutes each time. A doctor claimed to have given Stufflebean an examination the day before his cardiac arrest, but this claim was disputed.

Another prison nurse observed Stufflebean and was aware of his Addison’s symptoms, but told Stufflebean to return to his cell. Hours later, Stufflebean went into cardiac and respiratory arrest and was placed in intensive medical care until his passing.

Moving Forward with the Case

Many of the defendants involved in the case requested summary judgments, which would mean that there was not enough evidence to show legal liability. However, most were denied, with Judge Nanette Laughrey finding that many of the jail and prison employees acted with deliberate indifference. With that most recent ruling, the case can continue to move forward.

Advanced Correctional Healthcare, the company who provided nurses to the jail, has also been accused of withholding medications from inmates in previous cases.

The case now has the potential to be seen by a jury; or, the remaining defendants could reach a settlement with Brenda Davis.

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