A man with Type 1 diabetes who was arrested for unresolved speeding tickets ended up in critical care after the District denied him the opportunity to inject himself with insulin, his lawyers allege in a suit.
John Goodykoontz, 31, got into a minor payment dispute with a cab driver two years ago, which had been settled by the time D.C. police officers arrived on scene, in Glover Park, according to a complaint filed in D.C. federal court earlier this month. The officers then ran a background check and found that Goodykoontz had “an open traffic case” from speeding violations in Maryland. Goodykoontz was arrested and taken to the Metropolitan Police Department’s Second District station, where he was held for two hours. Although Goodykoontz told police he would need to inject insulin for his diabetes, the suit says, D.C. requires health-care professionals to do so and explicitly prohibits police officers, and even arrestees themselves, from administering medication.
But police stations don’t typically have a health-care professional on site, Goodykoontz’s lawyers argue. Instead, an arrestee with diabetes has to request to be taken to a hospital “to have a routine administration of insulin,” thereby risking missing a court arraignment. Goodykoontz chose to go to Sibley, where he was injected with insulin “while handcuffed to a gurney and guarded by two MPD officers.” Next, the officers took him to the central cellblock at MPD’s headquarters, because it had become too late in the day for a court arraignment.
That night, according to the suit, Goodykoontz received insulin at the cellblock’s health clinic but allegedly did not the following morning despite a caretaker’s instructions. Officers took him to D.C. Superior Court, where “hours passed” and someone called an ambulance after Goodykoontz had “nearly passed out” from a “dangerously high” spike in glucose levels: He had experienced “diabetic ketoacidosis,” a serious condition.
Goodykoontz faced a decision of staying at the hospital where he’d been taken “as medically advised” and having to delay his arraignment further, or checking himself out to attend court, his lawyers argue. Picking the latter, he was allegedly told “arraignments were done for the day,” and had to spend a second night as an inmate, this time at D.C. Jail. He was arraigned the next day, but when he returned to D.C. Jail for final processing afterwards, a doctor determined that he was again suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis, the suit says. Goodykoontz received treatment there and was released then traveled immediately to another hospital.
“Mr. Goodykoontz’s blood glucose levels were dangerously high and he remained in [diabetic ketoacidosis],” the suit notes. “He spent the next two days recuperating in… critical care… More than four days after Defendant took him into custody because of his unresolved traffic matters—and three hospital visits later, all of which could have been avoided with appropriate medical care—[he] returned home.”
His attorneys contend that the District’s policies on the administration of medicine for certain inmates are “unreasonable and unlawful.” They’re alleging violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act, a second federal Rehabilitation Act, the D.C. Human Rights Act, and the Constitution, seeking an injunction for D.C. to “take all affirmative steps necessary” to prevent similar situations from cropping up, and compensation.
“We’re not talking about some rare medical condition—millions of people in this country have some form of diabetes,” Sasha Samberg-Champion, one of Goodykoontz’s lawyers, tells City Paper. “It’s just inexcusable.” Jia Cobb, Samberg-Champion’s co-counsel, says they’re collaborating with the D.C. Prisoners’ Rights Project within the Washington Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights and Urban Affairs on their client’s case.
A spokesperson for the D.C. Office of the Attorney General, which represents the District in all litigation, said he had not heard about the lawsuit, adding that OAG generally does not comment “beyond public filings and court pleadings on any pending litigation.”
You can read the lawsuit below:
Photo by Darrow Montgomery