Massachusetts city is set to settle a lawsuit in the death of an opioid-addicted woman

Apr 7, 2024, 12:24 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — Relatives of a Vermont woman whose obituary drew national attention for its candid and heart-breaking discussion of her opioid addiction have reached a settlement with some of the parties who were sued for allegedly failing to provide adequate medical care.

The family of Madelyn Linsenmeir sued the city of Springfield, Massachusetts, and the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, saying law enforcement officials ignored the 30-year-old mother’s pleas for help before she died of an infected heart valve.

The Springfield City Council is scheduled this week to take up the proposed settlement involving the city and three police employees, according to a court document. The settlement doesn’t cover the sheriff’s office.

Linsenmeir’s obituary was shared widely for its blunt discourse on her struggle with drug addiction, encouraging readers to see addiction as a disease and “not a choice or a weakness.”

It urged workers in rehabilitation settings, hospitals, jails and courts to treat people battling substance use disorder with compassion and respect.

“If instead you see a junkie or thief or liar in front of you rather than a human being in need of help, consider a new profession,” the obituary said.

The lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts contended Linsenmeir was arrested in September 2018 and charged with being a fugitive from a warrant in New Hampshire and giving a false name. Video after her arrest shows Linsenmeir telling police she was in pain, and “might need to go the hospital.”

She was taken to the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center, where the plaintiffs contend she didn’t receive appropriate care. On Oct. 4, medical staff saw that she was in distress, and she was taken to the hospital, according to the lawsuit. She died there days later while in the custody of the sheriff’s office.

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Massachusetts city is set to settle a lawsuit in the death of an opioid-addicted woman