24 September 2010

Because Crohn's Disease Isn't Cruel Enough...

I have a Google news alert set for "Crohn's" and nine times out of ten, the content brought to my attention are either about fundraising efforts or a local paper spotlight on a Crohnie who makes crafts or whatnot.  Today, though, was one of those instances where I received something far more chilling.  This article concerns a lawsuit filed against Sheriff David Lain of Porter County, Indiana for the death of 33 year old Alan T. Cook from Crohn's disease.

According to the report, Cook's complaints went ignored by his jailers, who placed him on a diet consisting exclusively of Gatorade.  A liquid diet is often necessary and helpful for us Crohnies, but by itself it is not enough.  The inflammation and any obstructions must be treated, with medication and/or surgery.  Jailers are not qualified to make that determination.  Readers of mine will recall my own disagreement with a gastrointestinal specialist about the proper course of treatment for me.  You can imagine, then, what I think of someone as completely unqualified as a jailer making a medical determination about a Crohnie.
"If he had gotten proper care during the three to four weeks he was first in Porter County, he probably wouldn't be dead today," said Patrick McEuen, attorney for Cook's father, Thomas Cook.
Three or four weeks of not being properly treated?!  I know within a day when I need high doses of steroids to stave off something more threatening.  I cannot fathom going three to four weeks without proper treatment.

In fairness, I don't have anything further to go on than what is in the original article.  But reading a remark like "McEuen said there's a history of Cook asking for treatment or a transfer" suggests to me, at least, that perhaps Cook was seen as a bellyaching nuisance.  Knowing some corrections employees as I do, it doesn't take much imagination to envision Cook lying doubled-over in agony and being mocked by some fat redneck with an outdated mustache.  "Whassamatter, Cook?  You gonna need a diaper?  This ain't no nursery, you whining baby; man up."

Again, I concede this is mere speculation on my part.  But I can guarantee you this: no one goes three to four weeks with a Crohn's flare without it being painfully obvious he or she needs medical treatment.  No one.  Whether Cook was marginalized because he was on the wrong side of the law, or because mainstream society has such a poor understanding of Crohn's disease (thank you, David Garrard).  And lest anyone accuse me of bandying about unsubstantiated speculations, consider the 1971 Stanford prison experiment in which a professor of psychology oversaw the simulation of a prison environment.  Within days, the "guards" had adopted an unmistakably cruel streak of authoritarianism.

I don't mean to paint all jailers and guards with the same brush, of course.  But not all jailers and guards overlooked a human being enduring the agony of a Crohn's disease flare for nearly a month, as we've been told those in Porter County elected to do.