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Rikers doctors accused of causing detainee's death by botching drug withdrawal plan

Emma Seiwell, John Annese and Graham Rayman, New York Daily News on

Published in News & Features

NEW YORK — A new lawsuit claims city doctors botched a plan to ease a Rikers Island detainee with psychiatric issues off prescription drugs, causing a catastrophic seizure from withdrawal that led him to die.

Doctors with Correctional Health Services put Malcolm Boatwright, 28, on the withdrawal plan in November 2021 in an attempt to taper his body’s chemical dependency on clonazepam — a member of the benzodiazepine family of drugs that includes Xanax. Benzodiazepines are used to treat anxiety, seizures and severe insomnia.

Three weeks later — on Dec. 7, 2021, after he supposedly completed the tapering program — Boatwright had a seizure and died. He was one of 35 detainees to die in Department of Correction custody in 2021 and 2022.

Boatwright had no prior history of epilepsy or seizure disorder, according to records from a Bellevue Hospital doctor who treated him. When his family sought the medical records from Correctional Health Services, the city agency that runs medical care for detainees, they got a file that was heavily redacted of relevant information.

The allegations are contained in a $10 million lawsuit filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court last week by Boatwright’s mother, Lashawn Boatwright, against the Correction Department and five medical staffers.

“I just want to know what happened. That’s it. I deserve that much,” said Boatwright, 53, who lives in East Flatbush. “I’m just a parent that lost a child, just sitting here … no answers.”


Correctional Health Services declined to comment, citing patient privacy laws.

The fourth of eight kids growing up in Brownsville, Malcolm Boatwright was on the autism spectrum and showed signs of anxiety and depression and expressed suicidal thoughts, his mother said. His father died of an aneurysm when he was 12 or 13, a trauma that he did not entirely recover from, she added.

In better periods, Malcolm Boatwright regularly went to church and enjoyed running errands for older folks in the neighborhood.

“He was very happy. Very jolly. He still had the mind of a kid. He had the mind of a 15-year-old,” his mother said. “He would come here every day and put on Tyler Perry. That was his thing.”


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