Lawsuit filed in death of Texas jail inmate refused medication

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - The family of a Texas inmate who died after county jail physicians cut off his anxiety medication filed a federal lawsuit on Monday, accusing the sheriff and jailers of causing his death and violating his rights, attorneys said.

“This is one of the worst cases of medical indifference to human life I have ever seen,” said civil rights attorney Randall Kallinen, who is on the family’s legal team.

Jesse Jacobs, 32, was serving a 30-day sentence in Galveston County Jail in March 2015 for driving while intoxicated when he died eight days into his sentence, according to the lawsuit.

The cause of death, which came four days before his anticipated early release due to jail credits and good behavior, was listed on his Galveston County death certificate as “seizure disorder” and “abrupt discontinuation of long term alprazolam medication.”

Jacobs had been on Xanax and other medications for more than a decade to treat severe panic disorder, the lawsuit said. Sudden cessation of such medications can lead to seizures, according to federal health officials.

The Galveston County District Attorney’s office is investigating the case. The Texas Medical Board is considering whether to discipline two doctors who oversaw the decision to stop the Xanax.

The family is suing Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset and jail staff, asking for compensation for the family and more training for staff.

Officials with Trochesset’s office could not be reached for comment on Monday.

In an interview with the Houston Press, Trochesset denied any wrongdoing at the jail and said Jacobs’ Xanax was stopped because it is a “narcotic.” Xanax is a controlled substance but is not classified as a narcotic.

Jacobs pleaded guilty to the intoxicated driving charge in exchange for his sentence, said U.A. Lewis-Piccolo, a family attorney.

When he entered jail on March 6, 2015, Jacobs brought his prescriptions, medications and a note from his long-time psychiatrist stressing it was “imperative” that he continue them daily, Lewis-Piccolo said.

On March 9, Jacobs reported to his parents that he had not received his medications. The following day, he began having seizures and bit through his tongue, the lawsuit said.

On March 13, Jacobs was found unresponsive, drooling and with no pulse and was taken to a local hospital, the lawsuit said.

He was pronounced dead at the hospital the following day.