In the wake of the San Francisco medical examiner’s newly released report Friday, a furious spokesman for the family of Lynne Spalding on Friday dismissed the autopsy as incomplete and said the real cause of death was “negligence and malfeasance.”
Spalding, a 57-year-old British woman, was found dead in an outdoor stairwell at San Francisco General Hospital last October after going missing at the facility for more than two weeks.
Late Friday afternoon, the medical examiner released his long-awaited report on the death of Spalding. But the answers her friends have been waiting for since her body was found in the hospital weren’t in it.
The Spalding camp told KTVU the medical examiner’s report is so incomplete ,it will be calling for a grand jury investigation to find out to how a woman could go missing for 17 days in a hospital and why the medical examiner was unable to conclusively explain when or how she died.
Dehydration was the official reason the report gave for Spalding’s death in the hospital stairwell. The medical examiner’s report also listed “complications of chronic ethanolism” or alcoholism as a factor.
The report found no evidence of alcohol or drug use at the scene and said there were no signs of trauma.
In the wake of the report’s release, Spalding family spokesman David Perry was furious. He spoke to KTVU shortly after reading the report.
“The cause of Lynne Spalding’s death is negligence and malfeasance,” said a clearly distraught Perry.
Perry had hoped to learn if Spalding suffered long in the stairwell. The medical examiner found early stages of decomposition, but didn’t supply time of death. The report did note that Spalding was “deceased for some days before being found.”
KTVU asked Dr. Mark Savant, an internist, to interpret the medical examiner’s report into layman’s terms. He said that, in short, the report stated that Spalding died from dehydration caused by infection or sepsis.
“It sounds like the sepsis set things off, and after that she was dehydrated,” said Savant.
Savant couldn’t say how long Spalding might have survived without water in that stairwell, but noted that her infection actually increased her need for water.
Without knowing time of death, it will be more difficult for investigators who were also waiting for the medical examiner’s report to determine if Spalding’s life could have been saved.
Perry said regardless what the report says, the reason Spalding died is obvious to him.
“[She was] abandoned like a piece of trash in the stairwell of SF General Hospital. [It] means she died of neglect; she starved to death,” said Perry.
Spalding’s death has triggered multiple investigations and revealed numerous lapses in the handling of her disappearance.
Admitted to the hospital on Sept. 19, Spalding disappeared two days later, leaving her cellphone in her room, according to San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.
The sheriff’s department handles security at San Francisco General Hospital.
A physician told a deputy that Spalding was about to be discharged, but was also “very confused and not safe to be out on her own,” Mirkarimi said.
While her family distributed flyers around town, fearing she had wandered away from the hospital in confusion, Spalding was eventually located in a hospital stairwell that was missed during earlier searches.
In the days after her discovery, an investigation determined that sheriff’s officials had not searched the entire hospital complex, even after repeated requests, and had relied on inaccurate reports initially describing her as black or Asian and wearing hospital clothing. Spalding was found in her own clothing.
In addition, at least one hospital employee on Oct. 4 reported seeing a person in the stairwell where Spalding was eventually found, but no action was ever taken on the report.
The sheriff’s department also had difficulty retrieving surveillance video from the time of Spalding’s disappearance due to a technical problem.
Mirkarimi has since made staffing changes at San Francisco General, reassigning a dispatcher, two senior deputies and a sergeant away from the hospital. A captain, two lieutenants, two sergeants and two senior deputies were brought in as additional security at the site.