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No charges filed after woman with fibromyalgia dies in jail

Lana Bandoim's picture

Brenda Sewell never expected her trip to Colorado with her sister to end in tragedy. After visiting the state, she began her long journey home to Missouri, but she was pulled over for speeding in Kansas. Sewell admitted to carrying a small amount of marijuana for medical purposes because she suffered from fibromyalgia and other autoimmune disorders. The events that followed sealed her fate and devastated her family.


Both Brenda Sewell and Joy Biggs, her sister, were arrested by Kansas police because of the marijuana found in the car. Sewell died after becoming sick in jail, but her sister survived. Brenda Sewell had a long list of medical problems, and her family believes she did not receive proper treatment while in prison. Despite the prosecutor’s decision not to file charges, the family plans to sue.

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Brenda Sewell suffered from fibromyalgia, Hepatitis C, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome, high blood pressure and thyroid disease. She was on multiple medications to help her control these disorders, but she also found that medicinal marijuana decreased her pain. During her two-day stay in jail, Sewell became sick and started vomiting. She also complained about abdominal pain and respiratory issues, but police records show that initially the staff thought she was faking it. Eventually, they realized her medical problems were real and provided treatment, yet Brenda Sewell continued to get worse by suffering from seizures. Her spleen ruptured, and she passed away in her cell.

The tragedy for the Sewell family did not end with her death, and her sister was charged with possession of the marijuana found by officers. She could not find the money for a trial and was forced to accept a guilty plea along with probation. The family is devastated by the way Sewell was treated and strongly believes she did not get treatment in time to save her.

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Yes, technically she broke the law. Albeit, a law created out of government greed. A law the public/society in general sees as flawed. She harmed no one. The prison was CLEARLY negligent with her care. The family should definitely sue and, based on this article, they will win. This case is a shining example of how completely screwed up the government (police, laws, justice system) has become. It is criminalizing the American people.
She probably died from medicine withdrawal, we are in these meds for a reason & cannot just stop them like that, this makes me sick that this poor woman didn't suffer enough with everyday pain but had to suffer for 2 days that sick! I want justice for this woman , rest in peace Brenda
This is why people are so aggravated with the police and justice system. Clearly cases like this should be judged on a case by case basis and not just procedural. They should believe people when they say they are sick until they have cause to find them faking. This is reprehensible!
Sounds like she had Lyme Disease
I hope this family owns the town by the time this is over.
Me too!
I have fibromyalgia and rhumetioid arthritis and i can't imagine the pain this poor woman suffered. due to lack of medical attention. we are treated as drug addicts and hypochondriacs.. it is cruel especially when your constant companion is pain that no one could understand unless they have these diseases. remember back to the last time you had the flu with severe body ached, was sore from too much exercise, and the morning after being in a wreck... now combine all that pain annd multiply it by 10, 20 and sometimes 30 (depending on the weather or from doing too much while trying to clean the house or grocery shop)... now think of how much that pain would be and THAT is what we deal with everyday of our lives! Yes, it is real and it is horrible, horrific and a personal hell that we deal with. And lets add insult to injury by physicians telling us it is all in our heads and our families, friends and spouses getting angry when we can't do the simple things that healthy people take for granted. THAT is our lives and we deal the very best we can.. if a petson has cancer or a disease that you can "see" then people pity them and doctors do everything they can to help.. let someone hear we have fibromyalgia or another illness that you can't see and we are looked at as crazy and liars. you may think i am exaggerating but i live this every moment of every day. We are not asking for your sympathy, just your understanding and this poor woman got none of that and she died because of it! I pray that justice is served for this woman's family!
I too have fibromyalgia and lupus, and I agree 100% with your statement. People who suffer with fibromyalgia and other autoimmune illness are treated so unfairly because their illness are not seen, which caused this woman a senseless horrible death. I hope justice is several.
well said Crystal!! I use cancer as an example too sometimes. In fact, everything you said is almost word for word how I describe having fibromyalgia. We are treated poorly. And not just physically by having our pain ignored but we are treated terribly mentally. These Drs just break our spirits with all of their, "it's in your head, have a date night, relax, your over stressed, go to the gym & get some sleep....etc, etc, etc...." They really have NO IDEA what it's like for us. I pray this woman's family gets heard for Brenda. Poor girl. She should have never suffered and died like that. Shame on the police department.
So many doctors turn patients with fibromyalgia away. Or ignore other symptoms because they believe people with fibromyalgia are malingerers. I still see it with my mother, who has osteoarthritis all through her and bone spurs that were cutting into her spine. She has documentation of the surgery she had and she has MRI's showing the severity of her arthritis, but she went to see a rheumatologist who wanted her to discontinue medications for arthritis in favor of only taking Effexor, an antidepressant.
This is 'The machinery of state, ([Hobbes, great Leviathan], certain of its authority - But deeply ignorant parochial and procrustean of it motive called into action. You would think these women represented a clear and present danger/menace to society. How could we get this way? One way to this madness is to budget the DEA to one billion dollars, so (god forfend) if someone prescribes and or uses Marijuana, or any and all forms a pain relief - there is this massive reflexive abreaction. All this punishing of totally innocuous behavior. Law inforcement of this nature is hardly law inforcement. As Ernest remarks above. Put the police in the streets at 2 or 3 in the morning in dark alleys and places of real danger where people by pure misfortune find themselves and where they are being raped, savaged, bludgeoned murdered. You can't legislate how one feels, nor what they do to try to feel better. Such legislation is unprincipled. You can't proscribe what should be prescribed. Well you can do that: but this is the result; not just this woman's demise, but the pain and suffering attendant on her final protracted morbid course effected by 'law enforcement - and the inane "drug war". There is a comment above where the doctor exclaimed 'stop this or that pain med and take Effexor instead. This from a physician - there is no difference between all the CNS acting compounds - they work in an interfaced complex medium along a neural expanse of about one inch be the substance Effexor, THC or opiate. When will this end? (Note there is a large ongoing lawsuit generated by a group of patients who cannot come off (hold your breath) Cymbalta. When will this lunacy come to an end?
I have been on both sides of 'The Law'.. and my last employment was at 2 jails (a men's and a women's) teaching and case managing Substance Abuse Education for inmates. I had "been there and done that", so, I have empathy for ALL people. I just happen to also have Fibromyalgia and Ankylosing Spondylitis (a horribly painful form of arthritis), along with a history of treatment for Hepatitis C, Reoccurring Shingles, Vasculitis, and Nodular Prurigo. I was being treated minimally at the time with a low dose pain med and an anti viral while working this position. I pushed through, because I felt that those inmates deserved education and compassion from someone who truly understood them. MOST Corrections Staff also have compassion, but their hands are tied to provide the appropriate Treatments and Medicines needed by Chronic Pain Suffers , and THAT has to change!!!! It's 10 years since I worked that position, and my health issues have progressed to the point that I wear a Pain Medicine Patch, and take medicines for breakthrough pain,.. yet, I have no health ins., so I have to pick what I can afford in the way of medical Tx. IF I were to be taken into custody TODAY, I would go into severe withdrawls within 17 hours, because I am sure they would remove my patch!!..(I cannot use marijuana, it makes me feel horribly ill,..BUT, I live in California, and I COULD use it and posses it LEGALLY if I wanted to) With all the news about Police Brutality on people, and they are dying from the way the cops treat them, THIS should also be headline news!!!! We need CHANGE!!!!!! My heart goes out to her sister and family.
I will say that locally..we DO have very very very good LEO's (Law Enforcement Officers) close to 99%! .. HWY Patrol, Border Patrol (Now called "Homeland Security), all City Police Department's, County Sheriff Deputies - includin g corrections, and corrections staff, MCC - Metropolitan Correctional Center - which is Federal AND their Contracted Security Staff (Who are often used to 'watch over' inmates when they are admitted to hospitals, and so on. The 'support staff' is ..for the most part,..very capable and empathetic also.. ALL must follow guidelines and laws,.. Some of the guidelines are archaic..and need changing, and some are ignored..good guidelines, due to over crowding and under-staffing..in the field and in facilities. The Mavericks , and the "Pass the Buck" staff..ie: "Not My Job"..are the prblem.. an d this case should go to court.. so awareness is brought up..and clear consequences are given out for iggnorant or/and arrogant lazy behavior..by the few.