Friday, August 5, 2016

Family Kept in the Dark After Death at Texas Psychiatric Hospital

Shortly before noon on April 14, 2014, while their adult son slept in the next room, Anna and Daywood Clayton decided to call the police.

It was not a spur-of-the-moment decision for the elderly couple from Borger, Texas. They had agonized for days over what to do about 55-year-old Keith Clayton, who was hallucinating, talking about suicide and showing symptoms of schizophrenia.

They had asked a local judge how to get their son hospitalized. And they had called their 28-year-old granddaughter Samantha Clayton in San Antonio to ask for her blessing to send her father to one of Texas' state-run psychiatric hospitals. Having Keith Clayton committed seemed the best option to his parents, who were approaching their 80s and felt ill-equipped to care for a grown man with a serious mental illness and a history of alcoholism.

"We knew he needed help," Anna Clayton would later tell a police detective. "We just had no other choice."

It was an unseasonably cold day when the officers arrived; a light snow sprinkled the high plains of Texas Panhandle country. Daywood Clayton recalled trying to get his son, before he was handcuffed by the officers and loaded into their car, to put on a sweater.

It would be their final interaction.

Four days later, Keith Clayton was pronounced dead in an emergency room. He had stopped breathing after employees at the North Texas State Hospital in Wichita Falls forcibly restrained him for allegedly picking a fight. An autopsy found he died of a ruptured spleen caused by blunt trauma to the abdomen. He suffered internal bleeding and several fractured ribs.

It took five months for a medical examiner to rule the death an accident.

What happened during Keith Clayton's short stay at the psychiatric hospital hundreds of miles from home is still a mystery to his family members, who say the state has refused to give them an explanation. Anna Clayton said she didn't even know state hospital employees were involved in her stepson's death until a Texas Tribune reporter called her last month. For two years, she said, she'd been told he died in a "scuffle."

"We didn't have any idea if it was a patient that did it, or if it was a staff member, or not," she said.

"They wouldn't tell us what happened. They wouldn't tell us anything."

Asked why Keith Clayton's family wasn't given complete information on his death, officials from the state hospital directed questions to their parent agency, the Texas Department of State Health Services. Officials there said they could not discuss specifics of the hospital's dealings with the family.

Keith Clayton's death is an example of the sometimes-fatal effects of restraints used to subdue patients at Texas' state-run facilities for people with mental illness — institutions that face an uncertain future due to unpredictable funding, crumbling infrastructure and a growing demand to house patients from an overcrowded criminal justice system. At a time when the state claims to be reducing its reliance on forcible restraints, Keith Clayton's case raises questions about the secrecy around such incidents, particularly when they end in death.

Keith Clayton's parents, daughter and stepsister said they wrote letters and made dozens of phone calls to state hospital administrators and other officials in the year after his death. At every turn, they said, they were told the information they sought was secret.

For Samantha Clayton, this was particularly hard to stomach. Despite her father's struggles with alcohol, he had been in good physical shape, she said, roller-blading for long distances and doing manual labor for his job at a trucking company. "Him just dropping down and dying, it just doesn't make sense," she said.

Keith Clayton was cremated. His family held a memorial in Borger. Two years passed. Anna Clayton, now 86, said the family eventually gave up on trying to discover the circumstances of his death.

"After a while, at our age, we're just not able to keep it going," she said.  (Continue Reading)

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Family Kept in the Dark After Death at Texas Psychiatric Hospital

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The cover up...