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criminal system

Healthcare system discriminates against criminals

Published tisdag 1 februari 2011 kl 12.58
The 30-year-old woman died after being sent back to her cell without treatment. Photo: Gunnar Lundmark/Scanpix

A 30-year-old woman who was under arrest awaiting trial was sent back to prison from the hospital without a proper diagnosis and later died in her cell. The case has sparked criticism that the public healthcare system is treating criminals as second-hand citizens.

The woman had been an inmate at Kronobergshäktet in Stockholm for nearly two weeks when staff noticed a change in her behaviour - she stopped answering when they spoke to her, she wet herself and she rolled her eyes.

But when staff took her to the emergency room at St Görans hospital in central Stockholm they were told that the woman was not in need of emergency care. She was sent back to the prison without a proper diagnosis and later died in her cell.

The hospital declined to comment on the case but Lars Håkan Nilsson, a doctor and a medical advisor to the prison and probation services, tells Swedish Radio News that the hospital failed to properly examine the woman.

The case has been reported to the Health and Human Services department but Nilson adds that this is just one example of the reluctance to deal with patients that come from within the criminal justice system.

"They send back patients that would have never been sent home had they arrived on their own. They look at our inmates as second-class citizens. We should treat all patients the same and it is their medical condition that should decide what care they need."

And according to Ing-Marie Wiselgren, a psychologist at the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, it is likely that hospital staff discriminate against patients from the criminal system.

"Unfortunately i think this could be accurate. There are still people in Sweden with a low socio-economic status. It is more difficult for criminals or people with different addictions to get good healthcare. We do have a problem with providing equal care."

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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