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  1. Beenthere2Hippie
    Tori Herr, 18, told guards that she was a heroin addict and would soon go into dangerous withdrawals if she was not given medical attention. Her pleas were ignored. Eighteen-year-old Victoria "Tori" Herr died in a Pennsylvania jail, following heroin withdrawal. Her family says this could have been easily avoided with just the minimum amount of medical attention.

    In March 2015, Herr was arrested for the first time and admitted into the Lebanon County Correctional Facility, about an hour east of Harrisburg. According to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Herr's family in US District Court earlier this month, Herr told the correctional officers that she was a heroin addict and that she would soon be going through detoxification. Over the next four days, Herr vomited repeatedly and had uncontrolled diarrhea. She was unable to eat or retain fluids and was in an altered state of consciousness. Yet, the lawsuit alleges, the workers at the jail did nothing to provide her with medical treatment.

    After three days of being in the correctional facility, Herr called her mother to tell her that she was thirsty and felt like she was dying. Worried, Herr's mother tried to visit her daughter in jail. A staff member told her she couldn't. According to the family's suit, that staff member said that Herr was doing "fine." The next day, Herr collapsed on the floor of her housing unit and went into cardiac arrest. She was transported to a hospital where she died five days later.

    Emma Freudenberger, an attorney who is representing the Herr family, told Broadly that it should have been clear to the jail employees that Herr required serious medical attention prior to her cardiac arrest.

    "This wasn't something that was borderline," Freudenberger said. "She was very, very sick. When a jail takes custody of somebody who has serious medical needs, they have to meet them. ... Either they didn't care because she was an addict, or the supervisors fostered a climate in which it was routine and felt normal to ignore inmates' medical needs."

    According to the complaint, several of the jail employees yelled at Herr and accused her of faking her condition. One correctional facility employee in particular, went so far as to complain about Herr's death in a Facebook group established to commemorate Herr's life. Correctional officer Michael Gerstner wrote: "I find this so funny that people want the tax payers to pay for people going through withdraw [sic] in prisons...So, I say let them do there [sic] 'hard' withdraw and spend the money on someone that is gonna appreciate it!!!! You do the crime, it is up to you to do the time!!!!"

    According to Freudenberger, it is the job of Gerstner and other correctional facility employees to take care of inmates going through withdrawals.

    "They have to do the minimum," she said, adding that the standards for treating inmates with addiction were not met in this situation. Herr grew up in a rural town with rolling fields and was an honors student throughout her academic career. Stephanie Moyer, Herr's mother, told Broadly that Herr was a talented artist who loved writing and drawing anime.

    "She had this wonderful ability to not judge anybody and she could not hold a grudge," said Moyer. "She was not even capable of holding a grudge. I wish I could have had her around longer so that I could have learned more from her about forgiveness." Moyer said that Herr would befriend loners to make them feel like they had a friend. "When she reached out to people, she really was their friend," she recalled. "She would befriend them and seize the moments when she was with them. It was very genuine."

    She began injecting heroin about a year prior to her death. Herr is far from the only person who has died as a result of heroin withdrawal in jail. In 2014, 26-year-old Madaline Pitkin died in an Oregon jail after seven days of detoxing from heroin. According to Oregon Live, Pitkin had made four written pleas for help that the medical staff allegedly mishandled.

    "Pitkin detailed her intensifying weakness on jail forms and twice wrote that she felt near death," Oregon Live reported. "Yet the medical staff repeatedly ranked her withdrawal symptoms as mild. Even when nurses did become concerned about Pitkin in the later stages of her jail stay, they failed to track her low blood pressure." Attorney Emma Freudenberger says this is a troubling trend at more and more correctional facilities. It's directly correlated to the nation's growing opioid crisis.

    "The heroin epidemic is continuing to snowball out of control and one of the consequences of that is all sorts of people are coming into jails and prisons with serious heroin dependencies," said Freudenberger. "As a result, they have serious medical needs."

    By Gina Tron - Broadly/July 22, 2016
    Photo: Herr family
    Newshawk Crew

    Author Bio

    BT2H is a retired news editor and writer from the NYC area who, for health reasons, retired to a southern US state early, and where BT2H continues to write and to post drug-related news to DF.


  1. Nosferatus
    Re: Pennsylvania Girl Dies in Jail from an Avoidable Heroin Withdrawal, Lawsuit Claim

    The caption says she died from an overdose, the rest withdrawal (and opiates don't produce physically dangerous withdrawal symptoms) either way it's indicative of incompetence on the part of institutional staff, it is in fact their responsibility to ensure the safety of inmates.
  2. gonzochef
    Re: Pennsylvania Girl Dies in Jail from an Avoidable Heroin Withdrawal, Lawsuit Claim

    I have to disagee with you on one point, Nos, that "opiates don't produce physically dangerous withdrawal symptoms." Generally this is correct, and for that reason it has become "common knowledge" even in the medical field that heroin withdrawal is just painful, not dangerous. I'd like to enter the two cases detailed above as evidence that this is not always the case.

    Severity of physical dependence is a major factor, and as we all know it takes time and quantity used consistently. However we also know that a person can go through worse withdrawal from a dime a day habit than someone else with a gram a day habit, depending on how long the habit has been sustained and the physical makeup of the individual.

    I've seen and heard of extreme cases where the individuals organs have become physically dependent on the heroin to function properly. Organ function failure could cause a serious need for medical attention. Even in milder cases, constant vomiting and diarrhea can lead to severe dehydration, which can be deadly, or malnutrition which can again lead to the necessity for medical attention. The blood pressure fluctuations experienced during withdrawal alone can result in a need for medical attention, especially in individuals with pre-existing problems with blood pressure or other cardiac issues. This seems to me to be the obvious reason that addicts of more advanced age, with pre-existing health conditions, are at higher risk for medical complications and death as a result of withdrawal.

    For example, Jerry Garcia died of cardiac arrest a couple of days into rehab. It isn't just the overdoses that kill heroin addicts. I think it's time the medical community and the community at large start opening their eyes and minds to the fact that withdrawal from opiates is a medical issue, not just a "stay in bed and feel like crap for a few days and you'll be fine." Now that we've established that our country has an opioid "epidemic" let's start fighting it properly as we would any epidemic: with medical care and treatment, not disdain and prejudice.
  3. prescriptionperil
    Re: Pennsylvania Girl Dies in Jail from an Avoidable Heroin Withdrawal, Lawsuit Claim

    I still think Jerry's diabetes and smoking might have contributed to his heart attack. Previously,he went into a long diabetic coma. Pictures of him near the end of his life aren't pretty. Plus, I believe he died in his sleep.

    Nevertheless, I agree drug addiction and withdrawal are medical not moral issues. The article was heartbreaking.
  4. gonzochef
    Re: Pennsylvania Girl Dies in Jail from an Avoidable Heroin Withdrawal, Lawsuit Claim

    Yes, prescriptionperil, I completely agree. This was part of my reasoning about people of a more advanced age with other health problems contribute to the danger involved during withdrawal.
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