An inmate in Arizona suffered horrendous injuries all over her body after an MRI technician told her prison guard to not remove her shackles before her scan.
Lacey Windust, 38, an inmate at the Arizona State Prison Complex was visiting a SimonMed Imaging Centre, one of the largest radiology organisations in the country, to undergo an MRI scan in May 2022.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans use magnets to create a very strong magnetic field in order to produce detailed 3D images of the body, according to the US Department of Health & Human Services.
Any metal worn on the body will be attracted to the pull of the strong magnetic force.
When Windust, who has been in prison since 2012 on forgery charges, came in for her scan, the MRI technician allegedly told the prison guard not to remove the metal shackles around her waist, according to a Department of Correction incident report obtained during an investigation by ABC 15.
The guard claimed to have removed her leg shackles but then asked the technician if she needed the one around her belly removed. The technician allegedly responded, “No they should be fine,” as prison records show, according to the outlet.
Windust said in a letter to her sister from prison that she was put in immense pain while in the machine, as the shackles around her belly were pulling her body extremely hard.
“As I walked closer to the machine about three to four feet away … the magnetic flew me off my feet up into the air and threw me into the machine, up in the circular hole,” Windust wrote in the letter, according to the local outlet.
The prison guard escorting Windust was then told by the technician to go and help her as she got stuck to the inside of the machine, at which point they also got “stuck to the MRI machine because of my gun,” they wrote in a report of the incident.
The report filed at the prison also stated that several minutes went by before the emergency button was hit, making Windust endure the magnetic pulling throughout that time.
SimonMed employees claim in their own report, obtained by ABC15, that they were waiting for their lead engineer before they switched it off, as the engineer allegedly told the staff to wait until they got to the scene.
As a result of Windust being yanked by her chains in the scanner, she sustained terrible injuries and was taken to the emergency room.
Photos that the prison took of the inmate after the incident revealed she suffered from bruises, a deep cut on her hand that required stitches and imprints where her shackles had been forced into her body.
“She’s in a lot of pain. She has flashbacks of it,” the inmate’s sister Tawny Sonn told the local outlet. “I feel like SimonMed and also the prison needs to be held accountable for what happened.”
The Arizona Department of Corrections points the blame to the SimonMed staff. “This secondary medical situation, and resulting injuries, were caused by errors made by the staff at the imaging lab,” they said in a statement.
However, the Arizona Department of Health, a regulatory body for health services in the state, said that Simon Med does not fall under their jurisdiction so they were unable “to investigate or take enforcement action,” they said in a statement.
According to the department, SimonMed currently has an exemption granted to them by the department.
It is unclear why this is, but ABC15 said that someone from the licensing department told them that it was because the company was “physician-owned.”
SimonMed claims they are the largest outpatient physician radiology organisation in the country. They operate more than 60 imaging centres across Arizona and over 150 locations throughout the US, according to their website.
ADHS has since told the outlet that it is now in the process of reviewing the exemption given to SimonMed.
In a statement to ABC13, Simon Med said in part, “We prioritize patient well-being and safety above all else. We adhere to strict regulatory requirements and guidelines and strive to continually ensure that our employees are properly trained to handle all possible patient and care-related situations, As a healthcare provider committed to the highest standards of quality and patient safety, we understand the importance of transparency, responsibility, and accountability.”
“Any incidents that occur are fully investigated and all such incidents are reported to the appropriate regulatory agencies and accrediting bodies, consistent with the obligations imposed under HIPAA and other state and federal laws and regulations,” they continued.