Rikers Jail Medical Provider Let Inmate Die From Diabetic Coma, Suit Says

By Eddie Small on August 21, 2014 1:16pm 

 Rikers Island is located between the South Bronx and northern Queens in the East River.
Rikers Island is located between the South Bronx and northern Queens in the East River.
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DNAinfo/Theodore Parisienne

RIKERS ISLAND — The controversial medical provider for the city's jails, Corizon Health, let an inmate lapse into a diabetic coma and die, despite visits from health workers and pleas for help from him and from fellow inmates, a new lawsuit alleges.

The suit on behalf of Carlos Mercado, 46, filed Thursday in Manhattan Federal Court, is the latest in a string of suits against Corizon, including a teen who died from a ruptured aorta in solitary confinement after making several pleas for medical help.

"In the hands of the guards at Rikers Island he couldn't get the treatment he needed," Mercado's distraught sister Linda said in a statement. "No human being should go out like that."

Carlos Mercado lapsed into a diabetic coma on Aug. 24, 2013, a day after being taken to the Anna M. Kross Center at Rikers Island, the suit says. He died shortly afterwards, according to the lawsuit.The cause of death was diabetes, according to the Medical Examiner, which found that Mercado slipped into a coma while in the medical clinic's holding area after being seen by medical staff, according to the lawsuit.

Mercado requested medical treatment for his diabetic condition from city and Corizon employees after his arrest on Aug. 22 on charges of heroin possession, according to family lawyer Mark Taylor.

Mercado had been given the proper treatment during an earlier stay in Rikers, according to the lawsuit.

Shortly before his death, Mercado's fellow prisoners begged staff to help him as he slipped into a diabetic coma, but the staff refused, according to court documents.

"They were yelling, you know, 'This guy needs help. He’s passing out. He’s dying in here,'" Taylor said.

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Teen's Death in Solitary Cell Shows Health Failures at Rikers Island: Suit

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Rikers Island Fosters 'Unchecked Cycle of Violence' Against Teens, Feds Say

The lawsuit accuses the city, Department of Correction and Corizon Health of wrongful death and negligence, adding that the agencies violated Mercado's constitutional rights by not providing him with medical treatment.

The DOC referred comments to the city's Law Department, which said it would review the lawsuit upon receipt.

Susan Morgenstern, a spokeswoman for Corizon Health, said in an email that the company did not discuss pending litigation but that it "stands behind the quality of care provided by our medical professionals."

Corizon is also facing a lawsuit over the death of 19-year-old Andy Henriquez, who died in a solitary confinement cell in April 2013 due to a tear in his aorta, according to the medical examiner's office.

The company has been sued by more than two dozen New Yorkers since 2012.

The mother of inmate Jerome Murdough, who was found dead in a 100-degree cell on Feb. 15, also plans to sue the city for $25 million, according to a notice filed with the city comptroller's office.

Linda Mercado, who depended on her brother for financial support, said in a statement that she was distraught over her brother's death.

"My brother had managed his diabetes for a long time," she said. "He knew how to take care of himself, but he could only do that if he had access to his medication."

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