Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Collaborators in a civil rights violation

Via Radley Balko comes the tale of Tunde Clement, a New York City resident stopped in the Albany, New York, bus terminal by police for no good reason, subject to a brutal search, and then billed for the cost of his own abuse.

He was quickly handcuffed and falsely arrested. He was taken to a station to be strip-searched and then to a hospital, where doctors forcibly sedated him with a cocktail of powerful drugs, including one that clouded his memory of the incident.

A camera was inserted in his rectum, he was forced to vomit and his blood and urine were tested for drugs and alcohol. Scans of his digestive system were performed using X-ray machines, according to hospital records obtained by the Times Union.

The search, conducted without a search warrant, came up empty.

In all, Clement spent more than 10 hours in custody before being released with nothing more than an appearance ticket for resisting arrest -- a charge that was later dismissed.

Clement was billed $6,792 by the Albany Medical Center Hospital for the cost of his forcible drugging and ... well ... anal rape.

The egregious misconduct by Albany County Sheriff's Department deputies in the case is obvious. The Times-Union article rightly expends much ink on the history of abusive and, apparently, racially motivated searches conducted by police at that bus terminal.

But what about the doctors and nurses who voluntarily participated in the violation of this man's rights?

[J]ust before noon, Clement -- fully shackled and still in custody for a minor offense -- shuffled into Albany Medical Center Hospital with a phalanx of cops at his side, hospital records show.

He was locked in a gurney and listened anxiously as a group of doctors and nurses debated the cops' request to have Clement forcibly sedated so his body could be searched for drugs.

The doctors asked Clement to sign a consent form, but he refused.

The medical records show one of the doctors placed a call to the hospital's risk management director to assess the liability exposure of what they were about to do.

In some cases, prisoners or people under arrest can be forcibly sedated without a court order if they are in imminent danger, such as when a bag of drugs bursts open inside them and they begin to have a seizure or fall unconscious. But the hospital's records indicate Clement was behaving normally and showed no signs of any medical emergency.

"Spoke to Shirley of Risk Management," a physician wrote, documenting the medical decision-making that afternoon. "OK to treat, sedate & remove FOB (foreign object body) against (patient's) will despite his personal refusal."

Note that police had no search warrant. Even if a warrant had been presented, medical personnel are under no obligation to cooperate with police in inflicting such an ordeal on a prisoner. The article refers to one San Francisco hospital's refusal to cooperate with police, and I quickly found another such incident from Davidson County, Tennessee in which doctors balked at even drawing blood without the subject's approval. There seems to be plenty of precedent for declining to forcibly administer powerful drugs and then insert equipment into an unwilling patient's rectum without a really good reason.

So what excuse do the medical personnel at Albany Medical Center Hospital have for committing battery upon Tunde Clement?

The hospital administration seems to have clammed up, but I can think of two different rationales for the actions of the doctors and nurses at that scene.

Most or all of the people present may have been the kind of creatures who think the police can do no wrong. They may have willingly collaborated in the brutalization of a fellow human being.

Or maybe the doctors and nurses were intimidated by overbearing police officers. Perhaps, surrounded by ticked-off deputies with a reputation for working outside the bounds of the law, they grudgingly cooperated with the egregious civil rights violation.

Dissenters in the room may have walked away and refused to participate, or else swallowed their pride for fear of their jobs.

I lean toward the willing-collaborators explanation. Emergency room docs -- and this was almost certainly in the emergency room -- are, by and large (yes, I'm generalizing here in a big way), cowboy adrenaline junkies with minimal empathy. They don't intimidate easily, and they don't spend loads of time agonizing over moral quandaries. They're also likely to laugh at cops who get in their faces. "Were you counting on anesthesia the next time a uniform shows up in my ER?" is a not-unlikely rejoinder to any police officer who tries to get emergency room staffers to do what they don't want to do.

But either way, medical personnel, like the rest of us, are responsible for their actions. In the absence of guns at their heads, doctors and nurses must answer for the things they do -- even if those things are performed at the request of state officials.

You don't get a moral get-out-of-jail-free card because the cops said "pretty please" before you agreed to participate in a horrible civil rights violation.

As much as I hope the Albany County Sheriff's Department is penalized for its conduct in this matter (and its overall history of conducting abusive searches) I also think the administration and some staff members at the Albany Medical Center Hospital also need to answer for their actions. As the Clement case makes abundantly clear, collaborators make possible rights violations that don't need to happen. Hospital personnel couldn't have undone Clement's arrest, but they could have refused to enable -- and had no right to participate in -- the rest of the man's ordeal.

Let's hope Tunde Clement's lawsuit against both institutions makes him a wealthy man -- and the cops and doctors of Albany just a little more thoughtful.

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Anonymous claude said...

While i am an incredibly nonviolent person, i have to wonder where i would open fire first if this was done to me. The cops on break not ready for it, or the hospital?

May 14, 2008 10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

May 25, 2008 1:51 PM  
Blogger Hazim said...

7000 dollars for drugs and anal rape? That guy got ripped off. I'd pay 1000 TOPS.

August 6, 2008 4:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eric Carlson and Joan Wagar, A,K,A, Doubleclick and Mrs Dash,( yes those are there nicknames they gave each other.) admitted to poisoning me while I was a plasma donor back in 2005.
Eric Carlson pedofied me behind prison walls and then framed me as a pedophile on march 26th 2007, I caught the crime on a audio recorder I put in Joan's purse.
there were people in authority helping them with this and nobody in authority will help they pretend nothing happened and refuse to investigate this.
Eric Carlson changed his hair color and his name but this is not hidden, only ignored by the authority's and media
I'm disabled from being poisoned and the hospitals refuse to admit I'm poisoned.
My Family is in danger from these people and I have no other recorse but to make these charges public.
My name is Terry Wagar,Im from Portland Oregon and I'm backing up these charges.
I have been threatened with harassment charges by a Sargent Walker, She is a portland police officer stationed at the OHSU hospital, for the non crime of reporting a multi murder conspiracy within that hospital.
They don't give a s4!t Joan and Eric was poisoning a plasma donor!
Why don't you give A s4!t Portland Authority's, its already reported.
Where did Mrs Dash keep her stash?
In A garlic salt shaker!
What did Doubleclick do with his dick? YOU F@@king Pedophile!


February 17, 2009 2:42 AM  
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March 19, 2009 12:58 AM  

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