Lawyer blasts medical examiner's report into death of woman found in hospital stairwell

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An attorney representing the family of a woman found dead in a San Francisco General Hospital stairwell earlier this year is disputing the official medical examiner's report into her death,  which concluded that it probably resulted from a chemical imbalance related to chronic alcohol abuse.

Haig Harris asserted to the San Francisco Chronicle Saturday that Lynne Spalding's death wasn't related to alcoholism and insisted that she died of starvation or dehydration.

He said the mention of alcoholism "demeans the memory of this woman, without telling us when she died, how long she was out there suffering.

"The bottom line is she didn't have fluids for any number of days from the day she went out (from her room) until the day she died - they were trying to make it as though she was a woman who was going to die anyway," Harris said. "It's absurd. None of it makes any sense."

However, Harris did admit that Spalding drank a glass of wine nightly and suffered weight loss due to a lack of food at the hospital.

The report said that Spalding had been dead "for some time" when she was found. It also said that the woman had been in a state of confusion and disorientation at the hospital on the day she vanished.

Spalding's body was found in a locked stairwell October 8, 17 days after she went missing from her hospital room. The San Francisco Sheriff's Department has acknowledged that it committed multiple errors during the search for Spalding, including admitting that no one searched for her after a hospital administrator reported seeing someone collapsed on her back in the stairwell on October 4.

David Perry, a family spokesman, also denied that Spalding had a drinking problem.

No one at the medical examiner's office immediately responded to requests for comment from either the Chronicle or the Associated Press.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.