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Jan 14 2013

Another needless casualty of the failed war on drugs

Just sickening. I don’t know who should be on trial here first, the idiot hospital staff or the equally moronic police officers, but someone should pay for this shit:

FDL – Jamie Lynn Russell was 33 years old when she went to an emergency room in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma in such debilitating pain that she was unable to move. Because her excruciating pain prevented her from lying down for an examination, hospital staff labeled her “noncompliant,” and called the police. The police discovered that she had two pain pills that weren’t hers. Still in pain, she was released by the hospital as “fit to incarcerate,” arrested for drug possession, and taken to jail, where she died two hours later from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy.

Outstanding work! Another dangerous criminal carrying unauthorized pain meds off the streets …

43 comments

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  1. 1
    Neil Rickert

    I sure hope that hospital is sued for malpractice.

  2. 2
    Zugswang

    Definitely the hospital staff responsible. What they did is completely unacceptable, unethical, unprofessional…it goes against everything you would be expected to do as a health care provider. It wouldn’t surprise me if this woman was prematurely discharged because she didn’t have insurance.

  3. 3
    Suido

    Another needless casualty of the failed war on drugs world’s best health care system.

    Hospital staff. The police were doing their job (however despicably), the hospital staff weren’t. Fairly simple, really.

  4. 4
    Shplane, Spess Alium

    @Suido: But when the cops got there, they should have been obliged to say “No, fuck you, take care of this sick woman you incompetent dickheads.”

    They did not.

  5. 5
    Tsu Dho Nimh

    @4 – they aren’t able to diagnose. They have to accept what the hospital told them.

    When I was working in trauma centers, no woman with severe abdominal pain between about 10 and 60 went untested for pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy is relatively rare, but easy to diagnose and no harder to treat than appendicitis.

    And it’s lethal if you don’t bother to test for pregnancy.

  6. 6
    Stephen "DarkSyde" Andrew

    Yeah, a nurse friend of mine tells me that a ruptered tubal preggers would be similar in pain to a burst appendix. IOW the patient would probably be near or completely incoherent and writhing in agony

  7. 7
    stever

    She was probably one of Those People. The definition varies from place to place, but if she’d been well-dressed and white she would have been treated. BTW, the most visible result of the War On Drugs has been a reluctance among medical personnel to call a drug a drug. They always say “medication.” Like our perennial foreign wars, this domestic war grinds on because there is so much money in it. Everyone from dealers in illegal drugs to lawyers to cops to drug-testing labs to the prison guards’ unions has a piece of the action. The only people not profiting by it are the taxpayers and the people chewed up and spit out by The System.

  8. 8
    Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    “Noncompliant”?

    Seriously?

    When did not complying with hospital staff become a police-worthy offense?

  9. 9
    philstilwell

    What is it with so many “free thinkers” suddenly employing anecdotes to defend their positions? Let’s keep our arguments objective. Focus on the statistical data rather than stooping to the anecdotal evidence the opponents of free though rely on to emotionally distort reality. Once you’ve given anecdotes the same weight as do the irrational, you’ve forfeited the rational high ground.

  10. 10
    Karen Locke

    So very, very sad.

  11. 11
    keresthanatos

    Charges of criminal negligence, manslaughter, and malpractice need to be pressed against all involved.

  12. 12
    Suido

    @ Shplane, Spess Alium #4

    So, diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy is something police officers are trained in, and they are also trained to overrule medical staff regarding treatment of patients?

    @Philstilwell #9

    I’m sorry, but I’m not sure we’re reading the same thread. What positions are being defended with this story? Where did anyone claim that this story is more important in discussions about health care and police responsibility than statistical evidence of systemic failures? All I see is the heartbreaking story of a woman being failed by her health and protective services, and a discussion of responsibility for the specific event.

    It seems that the potential for harm to the free thought label is more important to you than the events in this story. That’s a bit worrying, don’t you think?

    On a slightly more snarky note, what’s with all the commenters on freethought blogs suddenly accusing free thinkers of relying too heavily on anecdotes? Do these commenters have data to back up their accusations?

  13. 13
    philstilwell

    You’ve got to be kidding, Suido.

    Reread the title of the post. You have an anecdote inappropriately connected to a national drug policy.

    All sides can be equally argued from anecdotes.

    Only stats provided the info necessary to conclude whether a policy has fail.

    Those deeming themselves rational have no excuse for using anecdote to legitimate any particular conclusion on a national policy. Simply reread the title of the post.

  14. 14
    Suido

    You’ve got to be kidding, philstilwell.

    Reread your first sentence of your first post. You have inappropriately extrapolated a single anecdote to be ‘so many free thinkers’. It seems that not even you are perfectly rational. What’s the bigger problem here, Steven’s title or the events in the story?

    But good on you for standing up for what’s important. That bloggers should appropriately title their blog posts and maintain perfect rationality. Yep. That’s the most important thing everyone should take away from this thread. Absolutely.

  15. 15
    philstilwell

    If you causally link an anecdote to something that ought rationally to be assessed statistically (such as the story here to the policy in the title), you’ve stooped to the same tactics as those who irrationally oppose you.

    Simply consider what you would think if an anecdotal drug death was linked to a title implying the war on drugs was necessary.

    Keep your standard high if you want your voice to maintain respectability.

  16. 16
    hemlock

    “You have an anecdote inappropriately connected to a national drug policy.”

    True, and looking it up it looks like the story has been altered.

    It would seem that rather than the hospital staff being “idiots” or labelling the person the patient was asking for pain medication, but refused extensive efforts to persuade her to allow them to examine and assess her first which is necessary for diagnosis (and then later treatment/pain management). If that was the case it was refusal of care by the patient, not by the health professionals who were trying to provide appropriate care and conduct an examination. The failings don’t seem to be what is implied here, although there might be something come up later e.g. failure to further assess while in custody. I don’t understand the linkage with drug policy. In any other country, possession of controlled/prescription medicines such as morphine (and two bottles at that) would likely have the same result. It’s certainly the case where I am, and there’s no “war on drugs” but an official “harm minimisation” policy.

    “According to an incident report obtained from the Pauls Valley Police Department, officers were at the hospital in response to another case when they were approached by hospital staff asking for assistance with a female patient who was being uncooperative.

    Officers stated they spent over an hour trying to assist hospital staff with the woman, identified as Russell. Russell was complaining of stomach pains, but wouldn’t cooperate with staff requests to roll over, saying she was in too much pain and needed pain medication.

    After ascertaining that they couldn’t assist her without her cooperation, the report states that hospital staff decided to release Russell.

    As officers were helping her collect her belongings in preparation to leave the hospital, they discovered two bottles of prescription medication in Russell’s possession that did not belong to her. The report states that the contents of the bottles were identified through the Oklahoma Poison Control Center, and that they did contain controlled substances.” http://www.gcnews-star.com/inmate-death-due-to-pregnancy-problems/

  17. 17
    richardelguru

    philstilwell, you are a wanker! (Sorry if that’s too anecdotal, but I have no statistics on you)

  18. 18
    punchdrunk

    @philstilwell
    Well, as long as you can find a way to feel superior, that’s the important thing. Not the dead woman or the policies that led to her death.

  19. 19
    philstilwell

    Come on, guys. Please.
    I’d like those of us promoting rationality to make sure we’re practicing what we preach.
    Is that too much to ask?

    Most policies have both positive and negative effects for which anecdotes only serve as smelly red herrings that hide the objective balance of evidence. Let’s not give in to irrationality simply because it is a popular tactic on the other side.

  20. 20
    Brad

    Every airplane crash is an anecdote. Yet transportation safety boards around the world examine them in detail and come up with recommendations to make sure events of the same type don’t happen over and over; that’s why air transport is so safe.

    For a system like that to work, you need to examine in depth, not just the incident, but the entire system surrounding it – organizations, interactions, training, economics, supervision, and much more. You need both mandated and willful cooperation between all players (regulators, airlines, manufacturers, airport authorities, unions, and so on in the case of airlines), and you need the authority to not just publish the results but mandate changes. But it works.

    I’d like to see the air safety model adopted more widely; health care is doing so a bit but not very widely yet. But change is hard, especially when one of the inevitable consequences is that it will be forcefully pointed out what is being done wrong now.

  21. 21
    uno1

    @9 philstilwell
    “What is it with so many “free thinkers” suddenly employing anecdotes to defend their positions?”

    Do you see anything ironic by making a claim about ‘so many’ free thinkers using this single anecdote.

  22. 22
    Didaktylos

    philstilwel: don’t dispute bridge-crossing rights with goats – the form book is against your kind.

  23. 23
    yellowsubmarine

    Philstilwell – I think we have a misunderstanding. Noone is claiming that the point of this article is to show how bad the war on drugs is. A lot of us take for granted that the war on drugs is a bad thing, and there is already a great deal of statistical evidence to back that up. We don’t need more evidence. The point of this story is to illustrate an actual case of harm done to a real person that might have been avoided if the US wasn’t so hard nosed about the whole thing. After all, the police weren’t called because she had drugs on her, they were called because she was being uncompliant (ugh). She was removed from the hospital because she had drugs on her. With a different policy, perhaps she wouldn’t have been. Or maybe it would have made no difference, but whether or not the policy that made the police remove her from the hospitol actually lead to her death is not an open and shut thing. Was she removed from the hospital because of drug law? Yes. Should she have left the hospital? No. Was she allowed to leave because the hospital didn’t want to deal with her anymore for whatever reason or did the police coerce the hospital staff into releasing her so they could nab her on drug charges or was there some other situation that might vindicate everyone involved? Hell if I know. We’re going to need more information. But at first glance, this does look to me like a misfire of our drug laws. Well, actually misfire is too soft a term for this situation. Anyway, my point is we’re not using this anecdote as support for a claim. This is an opportunity for us to appreciate the outcome of a claim we’re already on board with.

  24. 24
    besomyka

    philstilwell – The statistics do point to current drug policy being racially biased and ineffective, and that has been a rationally argued point for years and years. Problem is – excepting you – the stats don’t convince anybody. People just rationalize the situation away using whatever preconceived notions they have to reach the conclusions they already had.

    One thing that can change those people’s minds, however, is a re-framing of the problem that changes their perception of the issue. Numbers don’t do that well, but anecdotes can. It’s makes something that could be emotionally distant be be emotionally present. It at least has a chance of making someone ask why that happened the way that it did. As what biases and patterns let presumably otherwise well-meaning people to cause so much unsympathetic harm to another individual.

    And then they were, eventually, get to the stats, in the frame of mind needed to not rationalize reality away.

    So these sorts of anecdotes – the ones that are in line with the actual statistics that stochastically points to the real situation, have a valid and productive, reality-conforming use.

  25. 25
    ildi

    Also, how did the situation get from asking a police officer to assist with her ‘noncompliance’ to finding prescription drugs that didn’t belong to her in her possession? Does that give them probable cause for search and seizure?

  26. 26
    Gretchen

    Come on, guys. Please.
    I’d like those of us promoting rationality to make sure we’re practicing what we preach.
    Is that too much to ask?

    Not very rational to barge into a thread accusing an unspecified group of being irrational in an unspecified way instead of just saying that while you agree with the sentiment of how horrible the incident is, you don’t think that it supports the post’s title (if, indeed, it’s intended to).

    Not very rational at all…..

  27. 27
    Suido

    @Philstilwell

    You’ve made four posts. Not once have you shown an interest in the subject at hand. Just how the framing of the issue may reflect badly on rationalists/free thinkers.

    You know what else reflects badly on rationalists? People prioritising reason over compassion, not showing emotion. I’m not talking about people with responsibility, such as medical staff using triage. I’m talking about onlookers, bystanders. Me. You.

    Yes, reason is a good tool. Yes, statistics are better than anecdotes. But where are your priorities? The dude abides.

  28. 28
    philstilwell

    Simply consider a post made after the legalization of drugs titled…

    Another needless casualty of legalized drugs.

    …and containing only an anecdote of a drug-crazed man who killed a nurse.

    Do you see the problem?

    I can point out the inability of the post to live up to its title.

    You can not since you have forfeited that right through your rationalizations above.

    Do we know how often this type of death occurs? Was there any attempt to quantify it?

    I want to prevent as any deaths as possible by implementing superior policies as determined by real statistics, not merely focus on the horror of one death.

    And I certainly do not want to sacrifice rationality by an attempt to connect an anecdote to a position on a national policy. You then make your position equally (in)defensible as the position of any other story-teller. Do you want to tell a heart-breaking story? Fine. Do you want to defend a position? Introduce real evidence. The title of the original post makes it clear there is a position to defend.

    One poster above actually states…

    “Problem is – excepting you – the stats don’t convince anybody.”

    This is a justification for stooping to mere anecdote? Really?

    Come on, guys.

    The rationality employed to reach a position is much more important than the actual position since rationality is extendable to all other inquiries. We don’t teach people what to believe, but rather how to reason well. Stooping to the tactics of the irrational defeat this entire project.

    Take a stand for rationality, and leave the irrational tactics to the irrational. Please.

  29. 29
    yellowsubmarine

    Did you read my post at all?

  30. 30
    Suido

    @Philstilwell:

    I was the third person in this thread to attribute this to the hospital staff, not the police or drug policy. You may have even noticed that I included a suggested title fix in my first comment. Gasp – yes, I agree that Steven could have chosen a better title. I would prefer that the title was a snarky stab at the US healthcare system. However, it’s not my blog, and I think the wording of the title is less important than the story itself.

    I think you’ve really got to ask yourself, why is parsing the meaning and inferences of a title (that was probably written in less than five seconds) more important to you than the content of the story?

    Do you perhaps wonder why you’re getting this pushback? It’s not because you don’t have a point, it’s because you’re displaying all the empathy of a rock. Each of your posts keeps rehashing the same arguments like we don’t understand them. I understand, but I’m choosing to reject your apparent priorities in this instance. I’m sure the same goes for others.

  31. 31
    philstilwell

    The deep pain I feel for this woman and her family are not a necessary prologue for me to make a rational point.

    The point remains that this tragic anecdote is used in the same way tragic anecdotes are use by the irrational opposition to your position. You have forfeited rationality when you offer an anecdote that is unaccompanied by statistics when refering to a national policy as was referenced in the blog’s title.

    Simply consider a blog titled “Another needless casualty of legalized drugs” that contains an anecdote of a drug-crazed man who kills a nurse without any statistical evidence for how often this occurs. Is there any way you could say the story justified the title?

    This is the very same problem here. The writer of the post could not dismiss your point that the content does not justify the title for any rational reason. And they certainly would be foolish to dismisss your point if you simply said nothing about the degree of sorrow you felt for the victim. An expression of empathy is not a necessar prologue for a rational point; this appears to be a false dichotomy in suggesting making a rational point without the expression of empathy means there is no empathy. We all know this is fallacious.

    So the article posted above is only as rational as the hypothetical article I’ve mentioned.

    Let’s maintain high standards of rationality. And apparent expressions of empathy will look more genuine if they don’t appear to be necessarily promoting an agenda. Express your sorrow without the strings of an agenda. Express your hopefully rational position without employing merely emotional strings as are employed by the irrational without objective data/stats.

    And accept the fact that your audience will be limited to those rational few who require evidence. The alternative is to sacrifice rationality for a larger audience. It’s not worth it.

  32. 32
    punchdrunk

    There’s nothing wrong with humanizing the numbers.
    This post is a case-in-point, not a breakdown of statistics.
    Have you heard of ‘Straw Vulcan Rationality’?

    Julia Galef gave a talk about it at Skepticon IV:
    http://measureofdoubt.com/2011/11/26/the-straw-vulcan-hollywoods-illogical-approach-to-logical-decisionmaking/

    A summary, if you don’t want to watch the video:
    http://lesswrong.com/lw/90n/summary_of_the_straw_vulcan/

  33. 33
    Noadi

    *sigh* This is one reason why I hate the phrase “anecdotes are not data” because it’s simplifies somethign into a truism that people use to dismiss anecdotes when they are useful. We should expand the saying to “anecdotes are not data but anecdotes can illustrate data”. There’s already a mountain of data on how harmful US drug policy is but numbers don’t grab people the way a story that illustrates one of the ways that drug policy leads to harm does. We should use anecdotes to reinforce the message of the data which I think is what was intended here.

  34. 34
    Noadi

    And you know what? If limiting myself solely to data and leaving out examples limits my audience so that NOTHING IS DONE TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM. That is not worth it. I happen to think people’s lives are a bit more important than slavishly meeting the level of rationality you insist on.

  35. 35
    =8)-DX

    @philstilwell Total asshat. That the war on drugs is a failure is general knowledge, and not some radical new idea put forward by this post. There’s a time and place for anecdotes and a time and place for statistical analysis. Emotionally reacting to current events and sharing stories is part of ordinary human social behaviour. It’s one of the things blogs are for! If you don’t like that, don’t read blogs.

  36. 36
    Jesse M.

    Philstilwell,

    The blog title and content together imply only two things that are relevant to your argument: the author thinks a successful statistical argument against the war on drugs has been made before, perhaps by someone else, or that such an argument can be made; and the author thinks it permissible to discuss particular instances of harm caused by the war on drugs (as opposed to confining their discussion to statistics). The author is correct in thinking these things, and the act of thinking as such does not entail that the author has here presented anecdotes as having the same evidential weight as statistics.

    There should be people who discuss particular instances of harm caused by any widespread problem (as opposed to the participants in such discussions confining their remarks to statistics) because people are not rational operators. If you lecture people about the overconsumption of sugary snacks, many of them will begin salivating while daydreaming of cupcakes. If all arguments are tailored for rational operators, then the problems being addressed are less likely to be solved. To effectively combat injustice, people need to hear gripping personal stories that evoke empathy and tenacity. And just in case it needs to be said: such stories do not need to be conjoined with a litany of statistics.

    You attempted to bolster your argument with an analogy: “Simply consider a post made after the legalization of drugs titled ‘Another needless casualty of legalized drugs’ and containing only an anecdote of a drug-crazed man who killed a nurse. Do you see the problem?” Yes. That blog title and content would imply that a successful statistical argument for the injustice of drug legalization has been made before, perhaps by someone else, or that such an argument could be made. I disagree with that implied premise, so I would ask for statistics. Even so, that request for statistics would not be accompanied by accusations of irrationality, hypocricy, or of presenting anecdotes as having the same evidential weight as statistics, because the blogger is not guilty of such things.

    Do you see the problem with the way you have gone about things here?

  37. 37
    marcus

    @philstilwell Yes because any article promoting or demonstrating a rational point of view should be all statistics all the time. Anything else is just a waste interbits… or something.

  38. 38
    Gretchen

    You have forfeited rationality when you…

    Just curious, have you ever said these words and not been replied to with a big helping of STFU?

  39. 39
    philstilwell

    Come on, guys, you’re taking this too personally.

    I’m merely pointing out the objective fact that someone introduced an isolated emotional anecdote without any further attempt to substantiate a link to a post title that needs much more than mere affirmation and anecdotes.

    For those of us in the rational community, it does matter how we present our arguments. If we stoop to the irrational tactics of our opposition, what intellectual high ground remains?

    Here are a few suggestion to ponder before we post.

    1. Don’t claim an anecdote is an “example” of a trend unless you include and substantiate the trend with actual data. This is what the irrational opposition does.

    2. Don’t suggest in a post’s title that an anecdote is a consequent of a policy unless you substantiate that in your post. That is the irrational tactic of those that oppose you.

    3. Don’t suppose that, just because humans respond more to emotions than to objective data, that we can appeal to emotions without accompanying statistics/data that support our claims. That is the shameful tactic of the irrational.

    4. When someone points out a bit of irrationality on your part, don’t be like the narrow irrational dogmatic minds that can’t change. Change. It’s a beautiful thing to more closely approximate rationality. Don’t be proud about your ability to emotionally manipulate people. That is a tactic of the irrational.

    The process of rationality is far superior to any alleged rational position. Unless you can defend your position rationally, don’t try. It only gives the free thought movement a bad name.

    But don’t take my word for it. Look around at the tactics the irrational use, and see for yourselves how they mirror the tactics and dispositions found above. Stay rational. It’s a beautiful thing.

  40. 40
    Jesse M.

    The post title does not claim the post content will contain proof of the failure of the war on drugs. If you think that is what the post title says, then you have poor reading comprehension skills. The post title claims that the failure is background knowledge that the post content will be building upon. This is no different from someone making a post about preventing rape without beginning with a proof that rape exists. Not everything that is written has to begin with axioms.

    For those of us in the rational community, it does matter how we present our arguments. If we stoop to the irrational tactics of our opposition, what intellectual high ground remains?

    There is nothing irrational about writing something that does not begin with axioms. Repeat after me: not everything needs to begin with axioms; not everything needs to begin with axioms, not everything…

    You have aspired and failed to become a doryphore. That is just pathetic.

  41. 41
    Suido

    Philstillwell, #39

    1. Don’t claim an anecdote is an “example” of a trend unless you include and substantiate the trend with actual data. This is what the irrational opposition does.

    Let’s compare that with this unsubstantiated anecdotal evidence presented by Philstilwell in #9

    What is it with so many “free thinkers” suddenly employing anecdotes to defend their positions?

    Further Philstilwell, #39

    4. When someone points out a bit of irrationality on your part, don’t be like the narrow irrational dogmatic minds that can’t change. Change. It’s a beautiful thing to more closely approximate rationality. Don’t be proud about your ability to emotionally manipulate people. That is a tactic of the irrational.

    Many commenters have pointed out the irrational nature of Philstilwell’s original post, as quoted above. So much being the change we would like to see in the world.

    Philstilwell, your concern is noted. If you think it’s so important, carry on this noble fight over minor quibbles.

  42. 42
    Shplane, Spess Alium

    Right, because one needs a medical degree to realize that someone who’s in so much pain that they can’t lie down probably should be in a hospital instead of a jail cell. There was absolutely no reason for a police officer to say “Whoa, hey, even if she DID do something wrong, this woman came here for a reason. We can arrest after she’s not dying.” They don’t have to know the details, just like they don’t have to know the details if she’s spurting blood. There would have obviously been something wrong, and there is no possible situation where someone would be in that much pain that throwing them in jail is a good idea.

    But she had a couple of pills and was therefore obviously faking it. So fuck her, right?

  43. 43
    ema

    Officers stated they spent over an hour trying to assist hospital staff with the woman, identified as Russell. Russell was complaining of stomach pains, but wouldn’t cooperate with staff requests to roll over, saying she was in too much pain and needed pain medication.

    After ascertaining that they couldn’t assist her without her cooperation, the report states that hospital staff decided to release Russell.

    As a general comment, you never discharge a reproductive age female who presents with abdominal pain before ruling out an ectopic, ever. Also, a STAT blood test to r/o pregnancy takes about 45min-1hr.

    Something’s just off about that police report.

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