Inmate's death attributed to asthma

February 09, 1994|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Sun Staff Writer

The Maryland medical examiner's office yesterday ruled that a 33-year-old inmate in the Baltimore County Detention Center who died last week was the victim of an acute asthma attack.

Alfred J. Oliver, who was serving time for a shoplifting conviction, was pronounced dead at 9:23 a.m. Jan. 30 at St. Joseph's Hospital, about 2 1/2 hours after he first complained of breathing problems at the jail.

Although the jail infirmary staff did not call for an ambulance until Mr. Oliver had stopped breathing, James M. Dean, the detention center administrator, said, "I do not feel like there was any negligence clinically in trying to treat the man."

The medical examiner's office yesterday issued a statement saying that Mr. Oliver, died of "bronchial asthma, a condition resulting in severe narrowing of the small branches of the airway."

Mr. Dean said yesterday he has interviewed his staff and read the reports of events that Sunday morning, when Mr. Oliver was taken to the infirmary about 6:50 a.m., complaining of difficulty breathing.

At 7:10 a.m., Mr. Dean said, Mr. Oliver was being treated with a breathing machine and was apparently doing fine. "He was talking and alert. It appeared at that point that he didn't have any discomfort," Mr. Dean said. During the next 90 minutes, Mr. Oliver's condition worsened, Mr. Dean said. According to the medical examiner's office, he received a shot of epinephrine at 8 a.m. Dr. John E. Smialek, chief medical examiner, said yesterday that epinephrine is a drug used to help relax muscles in the lungs that are causing restriction of the airways.

Mr. Oliver continued to deteriorate and he was given another shot of epinephrine at 8:30 a.m., according to the medical examiner's office.

"Shortly after this, his breathing stopped," the medical examiner's office wrote. Hospital staff called for an ambulance, while a male nurse at the detention center attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation [CPR]."

At 8:39 a.m., the ambulance arrived, said Mr. Dean. By 8:56 a.m., Mr. Oliver was on his way to St. Joseph's Hospital. Efforts at resuscitation failed and Mr. Oliver was pronounced dead at the hospital at 9:23 a.m. Mr. Dean said he believes his medical staff did the best it could to save Mr. Oliver, who had suffered from asthma all his life, according to the medical examiner's office.

Mr. Oliver had been taken to the County Detention Center Jan. 28 after being picked up on a warrant for violating probation on a petty shoplifting conviction.

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