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Latest Lawsuit Against DCR: Medical Neglect That Led To Death Of A Prisoner

A line of jail cells.Lettas/Adobe Stock

A new lawsuit alleges an imprisoned person wasn’t given adequate medical care at the Southern Regional Jail and it led to his death. The lawsuit was filed by Steve New, who has other pending litigation with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

John Lewis Jarrell was in custody for approximately six days before he was transported by ambulance to Beckley Regional Hospital, where he soon died. His mother Martha Jarrell is the plaintiff in the lawsuit. 

His Medical Condition and Needs

Jarrell was taken into custody in relation to a prior arrest on June 27 for possession with intent to distribute. He had a medical history of tonsil and throat cancer, which resulted in him having a PEG, or feeding tube.

Jarrell, due to his condition, could not tolerate liquids by mouth. However, according to the suit, he had been given Gatorade by mouth. The lawsuit alleges that Jarrell likely choked on these liquids causing him to aspirate. Aspiration is when solids or liquids enter the lungs — it often leads to pneumonia. 

According to the lawsuit, Jarrell was supposed to receive at least 36 cans of a calorie and protein dense liquid over the six days. According to documentation, he only received 9-12 cans. 

The Timeline

On Oct. 20, two days into his stay, Jarrell appeared “chronically ill, and emaciated” according to a medical evaluation. It was noted that he was dehydrated. 

The next day, Oct. 21, according to the lawsuit, his blood pressure was low. He had a high heart rate with a low blood-oxygen level. There is no record of any medical intervention to address his conditions.

The two days following, Oct. 22 and 23, there were no vital signs recorded. 

The next day, early in the morning, Jarrell was transported to the hospital. Prior to transport, his blood oxygen was 53 percent, and he had a heart rate of 32 beats per second. At the hospital he was intubated due to acute respiratory failure. He died at the hospital and his cause of death was listed as sepsis and pneumonia. 

West Virginia Public Broadcasting reached out to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, however they did not respond before this story’s publication.