According to Esmin Green’s nursing notes, she was sitting quietly in a chair at 6.20 AM in Brooklyn’s Kings County Hospital. Publicly released security video, however, shows her dead or dying face-down on the floor at that time. The same video footage shows the woman convulsing, falling from her chair, and laying there for 45 minutes being ignored before a nurse or attendant finally comes over and kicks her to see if she responds. Ms. Esmin was not dead for the whole 45 minutes she lay on he floor; the videotape shows her writhing several times with convulsive “aftershocks.” Her difficulties were not entirely unnoticed…. a security guard rolls his desk chair his chair around the corner to get a closer look at the dying woman at one point without expending the energy to actually get out of the chair. After 45 minutes, hospital staff actually come to give her some assistance, but by then, it is too late.
If it were not for the release of the video, the circumstances of her death would have gone unnoticed. The video, however, provides a small glimpse into neglect in a psychiatric hospital. From a personal perspective, I can tell you that forty years ago,when occasionally had contact with staff and patients there as I passed through on my way to research labs in the basement, things seemed pretty much the same.
There have been firings in the wake of the release of the tape. It has been widely discussed in US and international news. But sadly, this story is more about the tape than it is about the death. Each news story exploits it for the author’s own purposes. Maybe some people just want to watch somebody die. Others want to show what an evil empire the US can be. Others will use it as an exhibit to help portray their own moral outrage.
Russia Today opines that US Health Care does not live up to its TV portrayal.
CaribWorldNews points out that the woman left to die is a Jamaican, and views this as another Tragedy of the Caribbean diaspora.
Al Jazeera provides a fairly balanced view.
And really, I don’t know what to think. I do feel some sadness and some outrage, but I am also fatigues and desensitized by what seems like an endless parade of neglect and violence against vulnerable people. What, if anything, will I actually do? If the answer is “nothing,” maybe I am not so different than that security guard who rolls his desk chair into the video frame to glimpse a sad and lonely death on the hospital floor, but never gets up off his butt to do anything about it.
Some of us are powerless because we are truly held down by powerful and repressive agencies. Some of us are just too tired and lazy to do much and remain self-satisfied with expressing our moral indignation.