10/5/20 - News
New York Times and Chicago Tribune Profile SHJ Client
In 2018, Bernice Heiderman, a 24-year-old Peace Corps volunteer serving in Comoros, an island off the east coast of Africa, died of undiagnosed malaria, raising serious concerns about the quality of the Peace Corps’ medical care. Now, SHJ partner Adam Dinnell is helping Bernice’s parents file a lawsuit against the agency. While the Heidermans “[want] the Peace Corps to ensure changes, including having more than one doctor present to assess volunteers and improving training of the medical staff,” according to the Chicago Tribune, there is no legal route they can use to force reforms; their only recourse is to sue for financial damages.
As a factual narrative prepared by Adam noted, this “tragic story was just the latest in a litany of deficiencies, failures, and unacceptable procedures that had been documented in 30 years of government reports, oversight efforts, and legislative reforms.” The New York Times‘ coverage of the case echoes Adam’s assertions: “Ms. Heiderman’s parents … said her death was proof that the Peace Corps could not ensure the health of volunteers in ordinary times, let alone during a pandemic. ‘It’s reckless and it’s terrible,’ Julie Heiderman, Bernice’s mother, said in a recent interview, referring to the agency’s plan to resume operations. ‘From what we know and what happened with Bernice, it’s dangerous.'”