New York Times, February 8, 2000

Texas Probes "Restraint" Death of Young Patient
By Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- The state is investigating the death of a 9-year-old boy who was restrained by staff members at a children's psychiatric hospital before he died.

The hospital was cited for violations after a similar death in 1997.

Marla Sheely, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, said the agency is probing the death Monday of Randy Steele.

The boy, a patient at Laurel Ridge Hospital, died at North Central Baptist Hospital, where he was brought following a scuffle at the psychiatric hospital on Sunday.

``He was a child with a very aggressive behavior pattern. On Sunday afternoon, his behavior became very violent,'' said Laurel Ridge spokeswoman Donna Burtanger.

Two hospital workers were holding the boy down and trying to subdue him when he began to vomit and have trouble breathing, according to Laurel Ridge officials and police.

``We do not use mechanical restraints, and I can't emphasize that enough,'' Burtanger said.

The boy had some bruising on his face and abdomen, said police, who are also investigating the death.

An exact cause of death hasn't been determined yet.

In August 1997, a 16-year-old girl died after she was restrained during a struggle with staff members at Laurel Ridge. The medical examiner's office said she died from an existing heart condition.

However state investigators ruled that some standards relating to the use of restraints had been violated and Laurel Ridge was placed on probation. Since then Laurel Ridge has changed ownership and has been released from probation.

Return to Newsroom Index or to Table of Contents