Ignored Psych Patient Dies on Hospital Floor

Surveillance video shows woman's death as bystanders, staff do nothing.

ByABC News
July 1, 2008, 10:08 AM

July 1, 2008— -- Even pared down to a few minutes, the hour-long surveillance video is disturbing.

At 5:32 a.m. June 19, a woman in a hospital gown in the waiting area of the psychiatric emergency room of a New York City hospital topples first to her knees before collapsing on her face.

A full hour passes. Other people stream in and out of the waiting room, including hospital security guards. The woman writes something on the ground before going completely still. Finally, someone takes notice and alerts the staff. But by then, at 6:36 a.m., the woman is already dead.

The woman, 49-year-old Esmin Green, died on the floor of the waiting room at the Kings County Hospital Center Psychiatric Emergency Department. Her exact cause of death has not been released.

The native of Jamaica, who had been waiting for a bed when she collapsed, had been involuntarily admitted the previous day for "agitation and psychosis," according to the City Health and Hospital Corp., which acknowledged June 20 that Green had been left unattended on the ground for an hour.

Alan Aviles, the president of the Health and Hospital Corp., had already announced that six hospital employees, including staff members who oversee patient care and security, face disciplinary action for their lack of response. Two of the employees were fired, while four unionized staff members must go through termination proceedings.

The hospital, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, may have a much bigger problem on its hands. In May, Kings County Hospital was targeted in a federal lawsuit by three organizations that described hospital conditions as "inhumane." Attorneys for the plaintiff released the footage of Green's death Monday night to illustrate in brutal detail some of the allegations made in the suit.

The Mental Hygiene Legal Service, New York Civil Liberties Union and Kirland & Ellis LLP filed the lawsuit after an investigation at the hospital "showed that Kings County psychiatric facilities are overcrowded and often dangerously unsanitary and that patients -- including children and the physically disabled -- are routinely ignored and abused," according to the groups' May 3 release announcing the suit.