Medical Examiner: Alcohol Factor In Death Of Woman Lost At SF General

A woman found dead in a San Francisco General Hospital stairwell in October after disappearing from the hospital more than two weeks earlier died of accidental causes and had been dead “some days” before she was found, according to a report released by the San Francisco medical examiner’s office.

Lynne Spalding, a 57-year-old British woman, died of electrolyte imbalance, a condition that can be caused by dehydration and other conditions, with delirium due to clinical sepsis, according to the report.

Spalding, who was admitted to the hospital for treatment of an infection, suffered from complications from chronic alcoholism that contributed to her death, the report said.

The medical examiner’s report does not specify when Spalding died but noted she was “deceased for some days before being found” in the stairwell on Oct. 8. Her death is considered accidental.

Spalding’s death has triggered multiple investigations and revealed numerous lapses in the handling of her disappearance.

Admitted to the hospital on Sept. 19, Spalding disappeared two days later, leaving her cellphone in her room, according to San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.

The sheriff’s department handles security at San Francisco General Hospital.

A physician told a deputy that Spalding was about to be discharged, but was also “very confused and not safe to be out on her own,” Mirkarimi said.

While her family distributed flyers around town, fearing she had wandered away from the hospital in confusion, Spalding was eventually located in a hospital stairwell that was missed during earlier searches.

In the days after her discovery, an investigation determined that sheriff’s officials had not searched the entire hospital complex, even after repeated requests, and had relied on inaccurate reports initially describing her as black or Asian and wearing hospital clothing. Spalding was found in her own clothing.

In addition, at least one hospital employee on Oct. 4 reported seeing a person in the stairwell where Spalding was eventually found, but no action was ever taken on the report.

The sheriff’s department also had difficulty retrieving surveillance video from the time of Spalding’s disappearance due to a technical problem.

Mirkarimi has since made staffing changes at San Francisco General, reassigning a dispatcher, two senior deputies and a sergeant away from the hospital. A captain, two lieutenants, two sergeants and two senior deputies were brought in as additional security at the site.

A spokesman for Spalding’s family was not immediately available for comment today on the medical examiner’s report.

Sara Gaiser, Bay City News

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