Medication Denied To Inmate?

Posted: May 08, 1990

A Holmesburg inmate died Sunday of a brain hemorrhage because a guard had refused to get him his blood-pressure medication, an inmate leader charged yesterday.

James Barnwell, 45, of Stillman Street near Cambria, died about 2 p.m. at Nazareth Hospital. A spokesman for the medical examiner's office said Barnwell died of a cerebral hemorrhage due to hypertension.

Dr. Ian Hood, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Barnwell, said it was possible that missed blood-pressure medication could have prompted the hemorrhage.

But, he said, there is no way to prove that is what caused the hemorrhage

because there is no accurate way to detect how much blood pressure medicine he had in his body at the time of death.

He said Barnwell, who was being held on a murder charge, suffered from severe high blood pressure and could have hemorrhaged even with medication.

Barnwell, who took medication twice a day for his high blood pressure, had been denied the medication Thursday night by a guard, inmate leader Jesse Kithcart alleged.

Kithcart, who is associated with the prison law clinic, said the law clinic had obtained statements from several inmates who contend that they overheard Barnwell asking the guard at 10:30 p.m. Thursday to get him his prescribed medicine from the prison infirmary but that the guard had refused.

Barnwell's cellmate told the law clinic that Barnwell had been "in distress all night," Kithcart said.

The next morning, Barnwell, who wore a medical-alert wristband, collapsed and was taken to the infirmary, Kithcart said.

Barnwell's wife said a correction officer called her shortly after 1 p.m. Friday and told her to go to Nazareth because her "husband was in bad shape." When Pauline Barnwell, 42, arrived, her husband was in a coma.

Guards told her he had been found unconscious in his cell at 11:30 that morning, she said.

Prison spokesman Lt. Darryl Anderson said there was no indication that a guard had denied Barnwell medical treatment.

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