ALBUQUERQUE (CN) — A woman whose baby died after she gave birth in the Albuquerque jail has sued Bernalillo County and the medical staff at its Metropolitan Detention Center, saying they ignored her pleas for help during labor.
Shawna Tanner was eight months pregnant when she was jailed in October 2016 for a parole violation. Tanner says in her federal lawsuit that she requested medical attention on the morning of Oct. 16 for abdominal cramping, vaginal bleeding and “other symptoms of labor.”
Despite obvious signs that she was going into labor, the nurse who examined her called her pregnancy “normal” and took no other action, Tanner says in the Friday lawsuit.
Throughout the rest of that day and through the night, Tanner says she repeatedly asked for medical attention and to be taken to a hospital to give birth. Instead, the medical staff accused her of drug-seeking locked her in a solitary cell in the medical unit instead of being given treatment for her labor and for increasing signs of a dangerous infection, she says.
On the morning of Oct. 17, she was finally allowed to consult with Dr. Timothy McMurray, the jail’s site medical director, and lead defendant. She says McMurray refused to even examine her, merely sent her back to her pod without any support for her ongoing labor.
It took several more hours for her to persuade the jail’s medical staff to call an ambulance, Tanner says, by which point she was no longer feeling her baby move.
When paramedics arrived, Tanner was in active labor and the baby was crowning. Even then, she says, she got no real assistance from the jail’s medical staff. “The ambulance paramedics looked to defendant McMurray for guidance as to the delivery of the baby. But Dr. McMurray just stood back, threw his hands in the air, and nodded his head back and forth in a nonverbal expression of ‘no,’” according to the complaint.
Paramedics delivered the stillborn child, whose umbilical cord was wrapped around its neck. Tanner was finally taken to the hospital for a few hours, then returned to jail, and “again secluded in a solitary cell for the night in the same medical unit that had just denied her timely access to emergency medical care under the circumstances described above,” she says in the complaint.
It continues: “She was then sent back to her pod without adequate postpartum care. Plaintiff Tanner remained incarcerated at MDC under these cruel and unusual conditions until she was released from MDC after a court hearing on October 20, 2016.”
Placental infection and cord entanglement that the medical examiner concluded led to the child’s death are fairly common labor complications Tanner says, and had she received adequate medical attention and care, her child may not have been lost.
The detention center has said it was investigating, but no results are available.
Attorneys for both sides could not be reached for comment over the weekend.
Defendants include Bernalillo County, jailhouse medical company Correct Care Solutions, Dr. McMurray, four registered nurses and jail staff members.
Tanner seeks damages for cruel and unusual punishment, negligence, medical negligence, due process violations and violations of the New Mexico Public Records Act. She claims the county obstructed her attempts to get copies of her medical records and other information.
She is represented by Anne R. Leonard with Paul Kennedy & Associates in Albuquerque.