Starved inmate, James Kenneth Embry, 57 died in a Kentucky prison, which sparked an investigation into the circumstances surrounding his untimely death. Kentucky State Penitentiary officials have asked prosecutors to delve into the case and examine the medical treatment or lack thereof Embry received in his final days.
When he died Embry, who was in prison serving a nine-year sentence for drug offenses, had only three years of his sentence remaining before he would once again have been a free man. However, beginning in May 2013, he started to fall apart after refusing to take his anti-anxiety medication.
Embry’s behavior began to get more and more erratic as feelings of anxiousness and paranoia overcame him. Seven months later, he realized he needed to restart the medication because he was feeling anxious and paranoid. However, when he asked the lead prison psychologist, Jean Hinkebein to restart his medication, she concluded his mental state was not significant enough to warrant restarting the drug and therefore, she denied his request.
Seven days later, on Dec. 10, Embry started beating his head on his prison cell door and he told the psychologist he no longer had hope. As time went on and Embry’s condition worsened, he got to the point where he refused to eat the majority of his meals. He was literally starving himself to death.
In January, a nurse found the starved inmate in a weak and shaky state. She advised him to eat but he said it was too late to bother with eating now. Nine days later, Embry died. By the time he passed away, he had lost 30 pounds leaving his six-foot frame weighing a frail 138 pounds. The Lyon County Coroner, Ronnie Patton examined Embry’s body and listed the cause of death as suicide. The primary reason given was dehydration. Starvation and other illnesses were listed as the secondary cause of death.
The circumstances surrounding the starved inmate, who died in a Kentucky prison, sparked an internal investigation, which determined there was a failure by prison medical personnel to ensure he took necessary medication to prevent him from being suicidal. The investigation further revealed that medical personnel did not monitor his condition and act accordingly as his condition worsened.
According to documents obtained by the Associated Press, prison medical personnel had numerous opportunities to intervene; however, they chose not to and the starved inmate’s condition continued to deteriorate until he died. Attorneys who specialize in inmate rights are outraged by the blatant disregard for the patient’s welfare.
All medical personnel take the Hippocratic Oath when sworn to practice medicine. Among other things, the oath says, “do not harm.” Simply making sure the starved inmate took his medication especially when he was in a fragile state of mind and asking to be put back on his medication could have prevented the harm he suffered through and that eventually took his life.
At this time, the investigation into Embry’s death is ongoing. The state has decided to place Dr. Hinkebein on administrative leave while they start the process of firing her and two other medical associates. Once the investigation sparked by the starved inmate who died in a Kentucky prison is over, officials will determine whether they will file complaints with appropriate licensing boards.
Opinion By Donna W. Martin