A Colorado woman has filed a federal lawsuit against the city and county of Denver, Denver Health and Hospital Authority, two nurses, and four sheriff’s deputies, accusing them of acting with “deliberate indifference” to her pregnancy as she was left to give birth alone in a jail cell without any assistance last year.
Surveillance footage from the Denver County Jail shows Sanchez in labor, lying on a bed and crying out alone, before she gave birth unassisted.
The lawsuit claims that a deputy was sent to go get a nurse, however that nurse allegedly told the deputy “not to bother him until he was off the phone.”
“Throughout this entire time, Ms. Sanchez’s painful labor was obvious to jail and medical staff alike, via a video feed from her cell,” the lawsuit states. “Despite the fact that Denver and Denver Health medical staff were supposed to be monitoring her via video, they took no action to provide the emergency medical care that was so obviously necessary.”
Sanchez’s son, identified in the suit as “Baby J.S.M.” also allegedly did not receive proper medical attention after he was born, the lawsuit said.
“No nurse at the Denver County jail took any steps to provide necessary care to address risk factors to Baby J.S.M. associated with Ms. Sanchez’s use of prescribed methadone or other high-risk prenatal issues,” the lawsuit accused. “Denver and Denver Health’s failure to provided Baby J.S.M. with even the most basic post-delivery care was not just negligent, it was deliberately indifferent to his obvious, serious medical needs.”
Sanchez was more than eight months pregnant when she was booked into the Denver County Jail on July 14, 2018. She was in custody after writing a check off of her sister’s bank account, which her lawyer, Mari Newman, says the mother “takes full responsibility for.”
“The fact that she is in jail is exactly why they had the legal and moral responsibility to provide her with medical care,” Newman said. “Every person in custody has a basic constitutional right to medical care and they abjectly failed to provide it here.”
Prior to going into labor, on July 30, Sanchez was examined and was told that she needed to receive immediate care if she “started having contractions if she had noticed any fluid leaking from her vagina,” the lawsuit said.
The very next day, Sanchez’s labor started, and according to the lawsuit, she told deputies and Denver Health nurses “at least eight times that morning, informing them each time she was experiencing contractions.”
She first informed deputies of her condition at about 5 a.m. on July 31. She gave birth to her son almost 6 hours later, at 10:44 a.m., again, allegedly, without any proper care.
However, according to the lawsuit, an internal investigation found that there “were no policy violations or misconduct on the part of” any of the sheriff’s department personnel.
“We empathize with anyone who is in jail while pregnant, including Ms. Sanchez,” Denver Sheriff Department spokeswoman Daria Serna said in a statement. “We contract with Denver Health Medical to provide comprehensive medical care at both of our jails.”
“Denver Health medical professionals are housed in the jail facilities and have dedicated medical units to provide medical services for those in our care,” the statement continued. “Ms. Sanchez was in the medical unit and under the care of Denver Health medical professionals at the time she gave birth.”
Serna added that the department has since changed its policy, mandating that those in custody who are pregnant be taken to the hospital immediately, regardless of their stage of labor.
Denver Health, for its part, declined to address the lawsuit.
“Denver Health provides high-quality medical care to thousands of inmates every year,” Denver Health spokesperson Simon Crittle told USA Today. “Our patients are our number one priority and we make every effort to ensure they receive the proper care.”