A woman who gave birth alone in her jail cell in Denver is suing the city after deputies and nurses allegedly ignored her pleas for help during about five hours of labour.
Surveillance video released by her lawyer show Diana Sanchez lying down on a narrow bed, crying out in pain, before she gives birth to a baby boy on 31 July 2018. An absorbent pad is slid under her door for her to put on her bed about 45 minutes before she gave birth. After she gives birth, a nurse walks in and picks up the baby.
“To characterise it as medical care is a joke,” said Sanchez’s lawyer, Mari Newman, who noted that the open toilet several feet away from where she gave birth was blacked out by the city in the video.
The federal lawsuit filed on Wednesday said prison officials “cruelly chose convenience over compassion” by not calling for an ambulance after Sanchez’s water broke and she was bleeding. It said a van was requested to take Sanchez, who was in a medical cell at the jail, to the hospital. But jail workers knew the transfer was unlikely to be available for hours until the morning booking process was finished, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit said no nurse dried or warmed the baby or cleared mucus from his mouth for several minutes and that staff did not have equipment to cut the baby’s umbilical cord. It was not severed until firefighters arrived about 15 minutes after the baby was born.
The Denver county sheriff’s department said on Thursday it had since changed its policy to ensure pregnant inmates who are in any stage of labour are immediately taken to the hospital. Previously, decisions about whether to move a pregnant inmate were left to jail nurses but deputies are now authorised to call for an ambulance for someone in labour, department spokeswoman Daria Serna said.
The jail’s nurses are hired from Denver Health, the city’s public hospital, and the sheriff’s department said Sanchez was in a medical unit under the care of nurses at the time she delivered.
Denver Health declined to comment on a pending lawsuit but defended its work in the jail. “Denver Health provides high-quality medical care to thousands of inmates every year,” spokesman Simon Crittle said.
Sanchez was not available for comment. Last year, she told Denver KDVR-TV, which first reported on the delivery, that the jail saw inmates as “garbage”.
“I know I was there because I was at fault for that I did wrong – and I didn’t deserve that and especially not my baby,” she said.