A supervisor at Stillwater state prison destroyed health records in which a nurse had mockingly written “Faker!” about a critically ill inmate who was seeking medical care, according to a sworn affidavit from another nurse who says she saw her boss shred the document in 2012.
Cassie Rider, a registered nurse who has since left her job at the prison, said in an interview Thursday that her supervisor ordered her to shred the embarrassing document, but that she refused because she felt it was an unethical attempt to conceal failures by the prison’s medical staff.
Rider’s affidavit was filed in support of a lawsuit brought last year by the inmate, Erick Thomas, against the Minnesota Department of Corrections. Thomas alleges medical negligence in the way prison staffers treated him for what turned out to be a life-threatening blood clot. Thomas’ attorneys served the affidavit Wednesday to the state attorney general’s office, which is representing the department.
“There is nothing more sinister in the world of law than somebody purposefully destroying evidence to hide what they did or did not do,” said Steve Meshbesher, one of two attorneys representing Thomas.
A Corrections Department spokeswoman declined to comment, saying the agency does not discuss pending litigation.
Thomas, who is still serving time on a drug charge and is now numb across half his body, filed the suit following a report in the Star Tribune that detailed the 2012 incident. Records obtained by the Star Tribune at the time showed that nurse Eleanor Fuller gave Thomas a cursory exam after he complained of numbness and paralysis. After deciding he didn’t need further care, Fuller wrote the word “Faker!” in his log, then left corrections officers to care for him overnight. Soon afterward, Thomas collapsed and lay paralyzed in a pool of urine until he was found at dawn by an officer, according to prison records and interviews with Thomas.
When Rider came on duty that morning, she examined Thomas and found that he was unable to respond to her commands and was incontinent and drooling. One pupil was larger than the other, she noted, and he could answer questions only by blinking once for yes and twice for no. She ordered him to be rushed to a St. Paul hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery for a blood clot pressing on his brainstem.
Made a photocopy
In her affidavit, Rider says that her supervisor, health administrator Sara Hard, confronted her a few hours later about the medical record on which Fuller had written the word “Faker.”
“Hard ordered me to destroy the Checklist because, according to her, ‘We can’t write [expletive] like that on anything, and Ellie knows better than that.”
Rider refused the order and then, without her supervisor’s knowledge, made a photocopy of the document.
“Hard then took the original Checklist and destroyed it herself by putting it through the shredder located in the med processing room under the nurse desk in front of me,” Rider stated. “After doing so, she stated to me: ‘That wasn’t so hard now, was it?’ ”
Hard, who has worked for the Corrections Department since late 1998, was demoted to a staff nursing job last April, officials said. She declined to be interviewed for this report.
The photocopy that Rider made is now part of a court filing awaiting a judge’s examination.
“I just believe in always trying to do the right thing,” Rider, 40, said in an interview. “I never looked up what any of these men did to end up in prison, I just believed they deserved the same health care as anyone else.”