Family Of Woman Whose Obituary Went Viral Sue For Info About Her Death

By Paul Gaita 12/12/18

According to the suit by the ACLU, police refused to provide Madelyn Lisenmeir with medical attention while being held in custody--neglect that may have led to her death.

female lawyer meeting arrested man, preparation for court hearing
Police in Springfield, Massachusetts could be held responsible for refusing to provide medical attention to a woman suffering from overdose while in their custody. motortion |

When Madelyn Linsenmeir died after a battle with opioid addiction on October 7, 2018, her family penned a heartfelt obituary for the 30-year-old single mother and earned sympathy and praise across the globe for turning their tragedy into a plea to help other opioid dependency sufferers.

Now Linsenmeir's family is suing the city of Springfield, Massachusetts and its police force to find out what happened to her in the days leading up to her death. According to the suit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Linsenmeir had requested and been refused medical attention while in police custody and remained in a woman's correctional facility until October 4, when she was taken to intensive care. Linsenmeir died three days later, and her family is requesting that the Springfield police turn over any audiovisual recordings that would corroborate the allegations of neglect.

According to the suit, Linsenmeir texted her family on September 28, 2018 with complaints that she was "really sick" and needed to be hospitalized. The following day, Springfield police arrested her for probation-related violations, including providing a false name, according to their arrest log. She was transferred to the Hampden County Sheriff's Department and held at the Western Massachusetts Regional Women's Correctional Center in Chicopee, Massachusetts.

The ACLU suit then alleged that at the time of her arrest, Linsenmeir was allowed to call her mother, Maureen, with a Springfield police officer on the line. She reportedly informed her mother that she was not receiving medical attention, but as the suit alleged, "the police officer refused to provide medical attention and even made a sarcastic comment to Maureen after Maureen expressed concern that Madelyn was being denied care."

On October 4, Linsenmeir was transferred by ambulance to the Baystate Medical Center's intensive care unit and died there on October 7, still in police custody but with her family in attendance.

The ACLU alleged that the phone conversation with Linsenmeir's mother confirms that the Springfield Police Department was aware she had been refused medical treatment and is "likely in possession of audiovisual recordings” that would corroborate their claim. In the suit, Linsenmeir's family wrote, "release of the requested records would serve the public interest by supporting Madelyn's family in their public advocacy for the humane treatment of opioid users and for increased access to medications and medical care for people suffering from opioid use disorder."

According to the suit, the police department and city of Springfield have not responded to the family's request. Hampden County Sheriff Nicholas Cocchi, whose department was not named in the suit, expressed his sympathies to Linsenmeir's family in an statement to CNN.

The obituary that drew attention to Linsenmeir's struggle, penned by her sister, Kate O'Neill, was brought to global attention through social media, where it was picked up by news media outlets. In the obit, O'Neill wrote, "If you are reading this with judgment, educate yourself about this disease, because that is what it is. It is not a choice or a weakness. And chances are very good that someone you know is struggling with it, and that person needs and deserves your empathy and support."

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.