Woman dies after being forcibly removed from Florida hospital

A 57-year-old woman died Monday after she was arrested and forcibly removed by police from a Florida hospital, where her family says she was denied care, according to a Tallahassee Democrat report.

Barbara Dawson arrived at 25-bed Calhoun Liberty Hospital in Blountstown by ambulance Sunday evening with complaints of stomach pain. She was admitted at approximately 10:30 p.m., treated and discharged within hours.

Ms. Dawson reportedly felt the need to remain at the hospital for continued care, which hospital staff declined. When Ms. Dawson refused to leave, hospital staff called the police at roughly 4:45 a.m. Monday.

A police officer told Ms. Dawson she had to medical care elsewhere. She was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing, then handcuffed and escorted out of the hospital. At that time, relatives say Ms. Dawson was having trouble breathing and requested an oxygen tank from hospital staff. A nurse said the tank was not necessary, according to relatives, and Ms. Dawson continued to cite breathing problems while police escorted her to a patrol car.

As an officer opened the squad car, Ms. Dawson collapsed. Hospital staff checked her breathing and pulse, then returned her into the hospital, where a physician readmitted her.

There are conflicting accounts of Ms. Dawson's vitals upon readmission: Ms. Dawson's aunt, who was at the scene, claims her niece's pulse was undetectable before she was wheeled back in, while Blountstown police chief Mark Mallory said a physician reported "good" vital signs.

By 6:24 a.m., Ms. Dawson was dead. In results released Wednesday, the state medical examiner ruled Ms. Dawson died from a blood clot in her lung. Audio from the squad car's dashboard camera will be released before Friday, but the camera did not capture video of the incident.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is opening an investigation into the event. Ms. Dawson's family plans to file suit against the hospital, Blountstown Police Department or both.


Editor's note: This story was updated 12/23 at 3 pm CST. 

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