Study: ICE violated own medical standards, potentially contributed to deaths of mostly healthy men staff KABC logo
Monday, July 12, 2021
Migrants still face deadly perils north of border
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Migrants still face deadly perils after crossing the US-Mexico border.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement violated its own internal medical care standards in 78% of cases, potentially contributing to deaths in relatively young and healthy men, a USC analysis of deaths among individuals in ICE custody found.

Seventy-one people died while in the agency's custody between 2011 and 2018. Of the 55 ICE death investigation reports available for review, 47 deaths were due to medical causes and eight due to suicide.

"The ICE medical care team minimized or dismissed signs and symptoms of critical illness," said first author Molly Grassini, a physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center. "It is possible that these deaths might have been avoided if these concerns had been addressed."

Researchers of the study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association, found that "markedly abnormal vital signs," such as abnormal heart rate and blood pressure, were logged prior to 29 of the 47 deaths from medical causes.

The USC analysis noted one case in which a man with flu-like symptoms grew increasingly ill and was documented as having "grossly abnormal" blood oxygen levels, but supplemental oxygen was only supplied sporadically "and not as directed by the advising physician."

The death investigation that followed, the study said, noted concerns regarding multiple instances where low oxygen levels were not recorded or adequately monitored.

The average age of the individuals who died, mostly men, was 42.7 years. The typical life expectancy for people not born in the U.S. is 81.2 years for men and 85.1 years for women.

Researchers said there are cases of individuals who died within days of being released, but they do not undergo the mandatory death review process, "potentially leading to an undercount of mortality in ICE detention facilities nationwide."

The video in the media player above is from a previous report.