When nobody cares

One of the more disturbing pieces of video of late is the one released this week showing a woman dying on the floor of a New York hospital and nobody seeming to care.

According to the story on the BBC’s Web site, “On Tuesday, the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, which runs the hospital, agreed to increase the monitoring of patients at the hospital’s psychiatric ward as part of a lawsuit settlement.” The BBC’s version of the video is even more disturbing.

What’s troubling — more so after you watch the video — is the assertion that there was a systemic breakdown of monitoring, rather than a simple breakdown of decency and compassion.

There is reason for hope, however. Six people were fired or suspended as a result of the incident.

  • c

    that is so sad. are we really that desensitized?

  • minn whaler

    Well, this happened in a psychiatric ward, and is society this desensitized? Yes, When it is a brain illness, we definitely are…


    Educate, educate, educate….

    Why is it so easy to accept that a liver can be sick, lungs can be sick, but the most vital organ of the human body (the brain which runs everything) can’t be. If it isn’t working it is a case of strength of character, etc. STIGMA KILLED THIS WOMAN

  • Sue Abderholden

    Our laws treat mental illness differently – not as a regular illness. And we wonder why people with mental illness aren’t viewed as valuable.

  • Barbara Harrison

    The Greeks separated the mind from the body and, for some reason, this theory has stayed with Western culture. Somehow we view the “brain” as separate from the human body. This misguided perception separates “medical” treatment from “psychiatric”. Tt allows us to continue to view people with mental illnesses as “crazy”, to allow disparate levels of research funding, and perpetuates a health care system that is starved for psychiatric beds, practitioners, and…. people who care.

  • b2

    But what happened? She didn’t die of mental illness. At the “45 minutes” mark the guard looks like he is talking to someone at a desk underneath the camera mount. Did the person there just let her lie there after she fell? It looks like a waiting room – people come and go and no one mentioned someone lying on the floor. That has nothing to do with what kind of sickness it was. The sickness is the people who paid no attention.

  • Kate Stabnow

    As a nurse, my immediate reaction was of, course, being sickened to my stomach. Then the next thing I thought was, this looks like a waiting room, not a psych ward.

    Viewing the video through the BBC link, I see it is exactly that. It said she’d appeared to have a mental breakdown of some sort, and had been waiting 24 hours in a Brooklyn hospital to be seen.

    So are those people sitting around “normal” (i.e., not suffering from delusions, able to determine that something is wrong) and just not reporting it? Or did they report it and nothing was done? Watch the BBC one, it looks a little different (as though staff was alerted even earlier and didn’t do anything).

    The video was released by the plaintiffs in the suit, the New York Civil Liberties Union. They launched the suit a year ago. The New York Health and Hospitals Corp. runs the hospital, and now says they will run 15 min checks on patients in the waiting room. Well, this is the least they can do, and is commonly done in psych wards, as far as I have experienced. (As well as jails who have psychiatric patients in lockup.)

    But then that begs the question, will they do anything if something is wrong? And what will a person have to look like, or do, in order to be perceived as having something wrong enough to receive immediately treatment? (Did this woman have a heart attack, or how did she die? is something I’m left wondering. Was it preventable?) As another perk, it will attempt to shorten waiting times to 10 hours.

    This is a perfect, awful example of why our mental health systems need to be fixed. My ex-boyfriend’s sister is another perfect, horrible example. State-hospitalized for years with schizophrenia, she was simply released into society with the limited avenues of help that are available for outpatient mentally ill folk. She began using heroin to cope, and was dead of an overdose within a year. What if she’d had, coordinated for her before discharge (as we coordinate aftercare–like CardioRehab for patients who have had heart attacks–in hospitals now for other patients) a walk-in psych clinic to come to daily to receive her medication and to care about her if something was wrong? A place she could go to when she needed medical or nursing assistance. Would she still be alive? I believe so.

    When they closed the state hospitals, they didn’t leave anywhere for the patients to go. There were good intentions in closing them, to assimilate the mentally ill into society instead of locking them away. But they didn’t prepare the society, much less the patients, for this. They just set them loose, all the while slashing outpatient services and clinics. Now look at our nursing homes. The one I worked at specialized in “those who have failed placement elsewhere.” It was basically lots of former state hospital residents. They have to go somewhere. We as a society need to devise step-down facilities for them, and outpatient mental health services to help them along the way.

    I found it quite striking that a woman suffering an acute psychiatric condition would even seek out help; it is all the more appalling that she didn’t receive it knowing how unusual it is that she sought treatment.

    Not to let the hospital off the hook in any way, but too often mental health is only dealt with when the patient comes into the ER through an emergency like this, or by being brought in by police. We’ve got to start valuing people’s lives no matter how low on the social status totem pole they are. These people are the ones who are least able to protect themselves. If we don’t, no one will. They need easily available outpatient, or inpatient, treatment, and a good health care team of nurses and doctors who are able to coordinate it for them. They can learn how to take care of themselves as we teach it to them, keeping them safe in the interim.

    We need to elect people who care about the mentally ill as well as others in society. People who will work to get health coverage for everyone. And then fund the programs to help the mentally ill live as healthy, even productive members of society.

    What a shame this was allowed to happen. May Ms. Green rest in peace. Her family is in my thoughts. Imagine how awful they must feel?

    Kate Stabnow, RN

    Otter Tail County

    West-Central Minnesota

  • JenniferB

    The stigma surrounding mental illness is a very sad reality in our culture.

    However, this isn’t only about stigma. What frightens me even more is the prevalence of the attitude of: “Someone else will take care of it.” “It’s not my responsibility” “I don’t want to get involved.”

    Beyond this situation, I’m reminded of the video of the man being hit by a car and everyone passing by him as his lay injured in the road. If we really care about the state of our nation, these things ARE our responsibility. We need to stop sitting around expecting someone else to take care of it, because when we all adopt that attitude, no one takes care of anything. As we’re learning, that can have tragic results.

    The other day I encountered a wrong way driver in Minneapolis. As I related the story to some people later that evening, someone asked what I did. I replied “I called 911!” The response I got was “Don’t you think someone else already did that?” Maybe they did, but I would rather have it reported multiple times than possibly ignored.

    We have absolutely no business complaining about the atrocities in our society if we are not willing to step in and help prevent/correct them.

  • Bob Collins

    While I certainly don’t diminish the reality faced by those seeking treatment for a mental illness, this is not an issue limited to mental illness.

    This is actually a story about simple lack of compassion, which, unfortunately, spans a number of fronts.

    On the other hand, what makes it newsworthy is that it fundamentally IS an unusual situation. A couple of weeks ago, hundreds of strangers helped search for a missing autistic man. Thousands helped victims of flooding. Still more went up to Hugo to help residents there clean up from a tornado.

    The trick, then, is to keep that sort of thing the “norm” and this sort of thing the “exception”

  • c

    /Kate Stabnow, RN

    Otter Tail County

    West-Central Minnesota/

    Kate-Thank you for your insight on the subject-


    I am tired of listening to people comment on others -usually the poor who are poor sometimes because of illnesses-to be “a burden on society” The only burden is in their own self serving, ‘I can’t see past the tip of my own nose’ minds.

  • elizabeth

    Ask what happened to the mental facility in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. How people who were in the facility they whole life were released to the society. Publishing ” statistics” and their ” success/ failure” stories should be very telling.

    Healthcare for all !!! and yes we need to help each other and yes it will cost.

    It might be mine/ your family member the next time.

  • Bomba

    Health care for everyone should not mean that the poor have better health care than any of the rest of us.

  • shish


    i think that the idea of universal healthcare means that we all get treated equally. yes there is a waiting line but i believe there is also a triage system used.