Christopher Cline

Name: Christopher Cline
Died: July 31, 2009
Age at death: 35
Cause of death: Medical neglect
Location: Huntington, West Virginia, USA

Chris was an athletic man who lived with his parents and attended an autism services center during the day. He went to the YMCA every day to swim and went to the mall to walk there for exercise as well. He liked to listen to music and watch movies.

Chris's aide from the autism center took him to the library. Chris went into the restroom, with his aide staying outside the door, and fell on the floor, crying out in pain. His aide entered and helped him up, noticing that he was disoriented and had trouble finding his balance, but he did not seek medical help for Chris. Instead, he took Chris to the park to walk around the track there. Again, Chris fell, crying out in pain. Instead of getting help for Chris, his aide put him back in the car and drove to the mall. On the way there, Chris started vomiting profusely. Chris's aide only helped him change his shirt.

When they got to the mall, Chris was unresponsive, and his aide finally called paramedics. Chris died at the hospital.

The doctors determined that Chris had suffered a subdural hematoma, a brain injury that causes blood to pool and crush the brain tissue as it increases pressure. Such injuries are medical emergencies, causing the classic signs of head trauma that Chris experienced–pain, loss of balance, disorientation, and vomiting. If they are treated quickly, subdural hematomas like Chris's can be prevented from damaging the brain if a surgeon drains the blood, relieving the pressure and allowing healing. But by the time Chris reached the hospital, his brain was already severely damaged. His aide's negligence in failing to seek medical care right away probably caused his death.

Editor's note: Chris Cline died from an accidental brain injury, and there is no indication that his aide intended to harm him. However, since Chris was autistic, his aide may well have put his disorientation and odd behavior down to his autism. This is a common problem: Mentally disabled people with physical illnesses and injuries may suffer medical neglect because, even when they ask for help or scream in pain, their symptoms are assumed to be coming from their disabilities.

Father blames Autism Services Center for son’s death
Christopher Jospeh Cline, 1974 – 2009

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