Connecticut Pays $9 Million for Abuse of Mentally Ill Patient by Hospital Workers
The Connecticut Legislature has approved a $9 million settlement to William Shehadi, a 62 year-old mentally ill patient who was abused at Whiting Forensic Hospital in 2017 in a scandal that led to the dismissal of more than 35 state employees.
Shehadi was abused for 24 days in the spring of 2017 at the state-run facility. Closed circuit cameras in Shehadi’s room captured the abuse. Shehadi’s abusers included the supervising nurse and numerous forensic treatment specialists. The brutal footage showed staff members kicking, hitting, and verbally berating Shehadi, who is physically and mentally ill. The surveillance videos also showed a male nurse gyrating his groin on Shehadi’s face, workers throwing Shehadi out of bed in the pre-dawn hours, dousing him with liquid, pulling the bedsheet over his head, and spraying him in the face with an aerosol can. Other footage showed workers mopping Shehadi’s face and placing a soiled diaper over his head. This abuse lasted for nearly one month, and included workers and supervisors from all shifts.
A whistleblower, Ben Rosado, reported the abuse, telling NBC, “I didn’t want Mr. Shahedi to die on my watch. The pranks got worse. The abuse got worse. It kept escalating.” Rosado also described a culture of systemic patient abuse at Whiting Forensic Hospital dating back years before the Shehadi scandal. Rosado said, “The minute you get hired there you are trained to not talk about anything that you witness.”
Sadly, speaking out against this abuse destroyed Rosado’s life. He began receiving death threats and he ultimately lost his job. Rosado slipped into a deep depression and turned to alcohol and drugs to cope. Just one month after blowing the whistle, Rosado was found dead from a drug overdose.
In response to the Shahedi abuse and the Rosado disclosures, Connecticut lawmakers formed a task force to investigate the systemic failures and to recommend changes at Whiting Forensic Hospital. The task force found deplorable conditions. According to Sen. Heather Somers, “The building . . . is something that you imagine a penal detention center of a third-world country. It is so bad, it actually took my breath away how horrible the conditions of someone having to work there or someone actually who is supposed to be there getting help would be placed in.” The task force found a lack of opportunities for healing, that too many patients remain hospitalized past their discharge dates because of inadequate community programs, and that the current Whiting building is in disrepair with vermin, broken equipment, and inadequate staffing. The task force surveyed more than 400 workers at Whiting and other state-run psychiatric facilities, and a majority of the respondents said that they witnessed staff-on-staff bullying and felt that the organization was not a good place to work. Legislators are now working to implement the task force’s numerous recommendations.
Ultimately, 48 hospital workers were implicated in the Shehadi abuse scandal, and several of them served prison time for their roles in the abuse.
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