It may be one of the most heartless acts of 2018 so far. A Baltimore hospital released a woman who was having what her lawyers have described as a psychotic episode out into the freezing Baltimore night air wearing nothing but a hospital gown and socks.
A video showing the woman, who was later identified only as Rebecca, sitting at a bus stop as four people, who appear to be security guards, walk away from her drew outrage on social media.
Now a federal regulator is launching an investigation into how the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus could have apparently disposed of a patient like so much garbage, NPR reports.
“There are people who are saying that my daughter is a drug addict, my daughter’s a prostitute, that she’s deaf,” Cheryl Chandler, Rebecca’s mother, told CBS News. “She’s not deaf, not a prostitute, not a drug addict. My daughter has mental illness.”
She continued: “My daughter was disposed of. She literally was disposed of. It’s disgusting, heartbreaking, horrifying. And if it’s all of those things for me, I want people to know how does Rebecca feel. This was done to her. She was on the street with her body exposed. There was no human dignity at all.”
Frankie Berger, director of advocacy at the Treatment Advocacy Center, an organization that advocates for the rights and medical treatment of people suffering from mental illness, told NPR that an investigation into how this happened is a “big deal.”
“If you get the federal government involved and they’re looking into your actions and nonactions, it’s a big deal, practically and symbolically,” Berger said.
While it is unclear what penalties or charges the investigation might lead to, NPR did note that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services authorized the investigation after hearing about the incident through the viral media coverage.
Rebecca’s lawyer J. Wyndal Gordon told reporters when the incident went viral that his client was in a state of “acute psychosis” and that the family is considering legal action against the hospital.
“More investigation needs to be done before we figure out all of the contours of the civil litigation,” he said, according to NPR, “but the University of Maryland is in our crosshairs, the doctors who mistreated her are in our crosshairs, the security guards—if they are in any way responsible for the trauma that she suffered—are in our crosshairs.”
Rebecca’s mother believes that had it not been for the video captured by psychotherapist Imamu Baraka, who also called police and stayed with Rebecca until they arrived, the outcome could have been much worse.
During a press conference last week, an emotional Chandler tried to dispel rumors percolating as to how her daughter could have ended up on the street after being taken to the hospital.
“Rebecca has insurance. Rebecca has a family who loves her dearly,” she said, NPR reports. “If the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown had provided Rebecca the slightest modicum of care, then Mr. Baraka wouldn’t have had the opportunity to record the most inhumane lack of compassion and empathy for my daughter.
Chandler added: “My daughter did not choose to be the face of mental illness. She didn’t choose to be an example of the impact of a failed mental-health-care system.”