No One Intervened as Ky. Inmate Starved to Death

Prison doctor has been fired, criminal investigation opened
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 21, 2014 1:25 PM CDT
This undated photo provided by the Kentucky Department of Corrections shows James Kenneth Embry, who died Jan. 13, 2014, after a four-month hunger strike that took 32 pounds off his 6-foot frame in the...   (AP Photo/Kentucky Department of Corrections)
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(Newser) – A 57-year-old Kentucky inmate is dead after going on a five-week hunger strike, dropping 50 pounds between September and his death in January. A prison doctor was fired and two other staffers are in the process of being dismissed over the death of James Kenneth Embry, 57, found dead in his Kentucky State Penitentiary cell in Louisville on January 13 of dehydration and starvation. A criminal investigation was sparked after the AP got tipped off to Embry's death and started collecting documents and asking questions.

Embry, who had three years left on a nine-year drug sentence, stopped taking his anti-anxiety medication in May; his behavior became erratic, and he started refusing meals in December, ultimately refusing 32 of the last 33 meals he was served (and he did not eat the single tray of food he did accept). The 6-foot inmate weighed just 138 pounds when he died, yet prison staffers—including medical personnel—repeatedly failed to intervene. Just a few details from the AP's disturbing timeline and story:

  • Embry asked to go back on anti-anxiety medications in December, but the lead prison psychologist denied the request even though Embry had spoken of wanting to harm himself.
  • When a nurse noted Embry was down to 138 pounds, and was weak and shaky, on Jan. 4—32 pounds less than what he weighed on Dec. 26—the lead prison physician signed off on the nurse's report without seeing Embry.
  • Hours before Embry was found dead, another nurse refused a request from medical staffers to move Embry to the infirmary, and stated that he should be taken off hunger strike watch.
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