On the morning of Feb. 9, the feverish Madison County inmate, Elias Abuelazam, had visited his court-appointed attorney in Mobile. The attorney — one Shelly Small, a court-appointed psychologist, who has a history of patient/client relationships — continued to examine Abuelazam after his lawyer excused him to put on a pair of jeans. The examiner had noticed that Abuelazam was appearing unusually sluggish, and they continued to examine him over the next several hours until it was determined he had an irregular heartbeat. At 12:17 p.m., when the examiner arrived back at the cell, Abuelazam was unresponsive, and by 12:21 p.m. his pulse was “subnormal,” according to a police report.
He was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead, and the examiner later gave a statement to the Mobile Police Department. But that’s where the public scrutiny began. Nearly 1,000 pages of court records related to Abuelazam were released to the WPMI-TV station in Mobile that day, and the following week, Abuelazam’s autopsy and the examiner’s death report were also released to the press.
Within hours, it was reported that it was the first time Alabama had an assisted suicide case. It’s a violation of state law to have the method of death known before the decision to kill a patient is made. But it is also a violation of the confidentiality of the medical examiner.
A probable cause affidavit filed in Mobile County District Court by the Madison County medical examiner, Dr. Michael Brozek, named the anti-anxiety drug marketed as Aduhelm as a contributory factor to Abuelazam’s death. “Withdrawal of use of the narcotic can cause a profound deterioration,” the affidavit said. Brozek also testified to the necessity of withdrawing from the drug, saying it was “not appropriate to be given to a patient in an attempt to alleviate symptoms.”
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