Jail death a shock 

A recently released autopsy of Michael Williams confirmed his family's suspicions: The 39-year-old Orange County Jail inmate died of asthmatic shock caused by his chronic bronchial asthma `Barred from help? Oct. 19`.

Williams' cellmates and family members have blamed his August death on jail officials. According to several inmates, Williams pleaded with guards to allow him to see a doctor weeks before he died. Jail officials say Williams was responsible for a missed doctor's visit and that guards responded quickly the night of his death.

Dean Mosley, the attorney for the Williams family, says he has sent the autopsy to pulmonary specialists in Tampa for review. "The preliminary indications from my experts are that if he had asked for help two or three days before he died, then more than likely his death was preventable," Mosley says.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, asthma deaths have tripled over the past two decades. More than 5,000 Americans died from the disease in 1995, the latest figures available from the CDC. Even so, asthma deaths are "very preventable," says Dr. Robert Johnson, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Dallas. Johnson says most asthma deaths result from a lack of care or from not understanding that asthmatics need more medical attention than merely breathing periodically from an inhaler.

He adds that smoking is one of the worst things an asthmatic can do. Williams' autopsy listed "tobacco use" as a contributing factor in his death.

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