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Community Comment

Death of a homeless person in Spokane

Good morning, Netizens…


In a poignant story (http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2009/jan/08/homeless-woman-found-shelter/) covered by the morning news in the Spokesman-Review relating to the death of Kim Steel, a homeless woman in Spokane, they overlooked a few minor details, most of which probably is covered by the rights of the deceased to medical privacy. However, I thought enough of the story of the story, and the demise of one of Spokane’s many homeless, that I would mildly speculate about the cause of her last days on Earth.


Steel, a woman with a long tortured history of substance and alcohol abuse, died of an apparent heart attack, although what remains entirely unclear is how or when that was determined.


Two days after Christmas, Steel complained of chest pain and was transported to the hospital by ambulance. At an unnamed hospital, she was X-rayed, given painkillers and sent home. One day later, she awoke with more pain which the painkillers would not touch, and once again was transported to the unnamed hospital. She died early that afternoon of a heart attack.


Having had three heart attacks, I can state with certainty that if Steel had insurance, her diagnosis during the first visit at the hospital, would have disclosed the condition(s) that led to her heart attack and ultimately, her death. Modern medicine has the capability, with proper insurance coverage of course, to detect even minor anomalies in the human heart long before a heart attack occurs.


Of course we will never know exactly how the heart attack took place, nor the medical diagnosis during her first visit.


Instead of the coroner’s report listing her cause of death as a heart attack, perhaps a more-honest assertion would be that Kim Steel died of homelessness coupled with long-term substance abuse, perhaps even an incomplete medical diagnosis, but her being homeless and poor killed her just as certainly as anything else.


With the continuing downward slide off the edge of the national economy, with more and more people either falling into homelessness and/or poverty, it seems a certainty that she will not be the last person to die thus, however, it doesn’t make it right.


Dave


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