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Prone Restraint Death Ruled a Homicide

December 7, 2010

Yet another death has occurred from prone restraint. This one involved the death of a 27 year old autistic man who had no history of violence and outbursts and had the mental functioning of a young child. The death occurred at a NY State psychiatric facility in Staten Island and just yesterday, the announcement was made in the New York Times that the death has been ruled a homicide. Excerpt:

The medical examiner’s office on Sunday listed the cause of death of the patient, Jawara Henry, 27, as asphyxiation due to chest and neck compression.

Mr. Henry died on Saturday afternoon after his behavior prompted personnel at South Beach Psychiatric Center to restrain him, officials said.

A homicide ruling referred to the involvement of at least one other person in the death and was not a judgment of their conduct, officials said.

Mr. Henry reportedly became unruly and bit two other patients about 3:40 p.m., a law enforcement official said, adding that as employees waited for a doctor’s authorization to medicate Mr. Henry, he became aggressive. Three staff members restrained him on a hallway floor for about two minutes, holding down his arms and legs, the law enforcement official said; when Mr. Henry, who was face down, grew still, a nurse was told to administer the medicine. But when the nurse went to do so, he or she saw that Mr. Henry was not breathing.

This again, illustrates the point that research I referenced earlier, that prone restraint can result in death, even when it is done in institutional settings, under strictly supervised conditions and it took only two minutes.

According to the NY Times, the death was ruled a homicide, but no decisions yet have been made about who will be prosecuted.

This is not the first death of its kind nor, unfortunately, is it likely to be the last. When will this end?

Presumably, anyone performing restraint in a state institution would be thoroughly trained in the procedures, yet deaths still occur. If someone can die in two minutes under the watchful eye of a state institution, what does that tell us about prone restraints that are used at home on children, for much longer periods of time? Whether for the purposes of safety, behavioral control or forcing attachment, is the prone position a safe position for parents to be using while home alone with their children? You be the judge.

Again, this is an illustration of the principle that good intentions are not enough. I am sure no one working at that institution wanted to see this young man dead and no one intended to make him suffer. That, however made no difference in the unfortunate and tragic result because this young man is just as dead, regardless of the good intentions of the helping professionals who cared for him.

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