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Lawsuit alleges woman had to give birth alone in Denver jail

Media captionSurveillance footage shows Diana Sanchez give birth alone in the cell.

A woman in Denver, Colorado, is suing the city and sheriff staff, alleging she had to give birth alone in a jail cell with no medical assistance.

Diana Sanchez claims in a complaint that she was forced to deliver her baby last year “on a cold hard bench, feet away from a toilet” in the county jail.

She alleges staff knew she was in labour for hours but ignored her.

The Denver sheriff’s department told the BBC they conducted a review and found staff had acted appropriately.

The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, names the city and county of Denver, the Denver Health Medical Center and six other individuals as defendants, alleging they “utterly failed to satisfy their legal and moral duty”.

According to local media, Ms Sanchez was booked into the Denver County Jail on 14 July 2018, aged 26, on identity theft charges.

Ms Sanchez’s complaint alleges she notified health personnel at the time of her booking that she was over eight months pregnant.

On 31 July Ms Sanchez reported to deputies that she was in active labour, says the complaint.

It states she spoke with prison deputies and nurses “at least eight times that morning, informing them each time that she was experiencing contractions”.

But, the lawsuit says, she ended up in labour alone in her cell for the next four to five hours with no medical care.

“What should have been one of the happiest days of her life was instead a day of unnecessary terror, pain, and humiliation that continues to cause her on-going emotional trauma,” the complaint states.

A spokeswoman for the Denver Sheriff’s Department (DSD) told the BBC that “the care and well-being of our inmates is a top priority” and that Denver Health, a hospital, works to “provide comprehensive medical care at both of our jails”.

“After learning that Ms Sanchez gave birth in a cell at the Denver County Jail on July 31, 2018, Sheriff [Patrick] Firman immediately ordered Internal Affairs to conduct a review to understand what happened,” the statement said.

“Denver Health was also asked to review this incident. As a result of a thorough DSD investigation of DSD staff, it was determined that the Deputy Sheriffs took the appropriate actions under the circumstances and followed the relevant policies and procedures.

“As a result, DSD policy was clarified to mandate that when an inmate is in labour an emergency ambulance will be called.”

But Ms Sanchez’s lawsuit alleges that staff delayed treating her “to accommodate the jail’s scheduled book-ins”.

In addition, it claims that in the minutes after the birth, none of the nurses present dried or warmed the baby, cleared the mucous from the baby’s nose and mouth, administered antibiotics, weighed or measured the baby.

Ms Sanchez told KDVR last year: “They put my son’s life at risk. When I got to the hospital, they said that I could have bled to death.”

The lawsuit says the staff’s “outrageous conduct” violated Ms Sanchez and her baby’s constitutional rights.

“This suit is brought to hold to account the officials who cruelly chose convenience over compassion.”

Lawsuit alleges woman had to give birth alone in Denver jail

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