Urged by detox staff not to quit inpatient rehab - and warned that using drugs after having taken treatment medicine can prove fatal - William Earle II, 22, of Elmont, signed himself out of Nassau University Medical Center's 20-bed unit anyway, hospital officials said Thursday.
Hours after leaving, Earle and a young woman whom his family said he'd just met at the hospital lay dead Wednesday morning on his basement floor, police said. Drug paraphernalia and heroin were found nearby, said detectives, who suspect they died of heroin overdoses.
Despite the risks of addicts quitting treatment early, staff are powerless to keep them involuntarily, said Dr. Dayo Alalade of the East Meadow hospital where Earle had checked himself in on Sunday.
According to the hospital, which discussed Earle's case with Newsday because his family signed a release, Earle left after a female addict there was asked to leave for rule-breaking, Alalade said.
Because of patient privacy the hospital would not say whether the ejected female was the same woman found dead Wednesday at Earle's home or discuss her case. Nassau police have not identified the 20-year-old woman found in Earle's Elmont home.
"They tried everything they could to stop him from leaving, but he didn't listen to the advice," Alalade said. "Our staff, the counselors and the nursing staff and the doctor, tried to prevail on him to stay."
Earle's grandfather, also named William Earle, questioned why the hospital allowed his grandson to go. "He's a kid on drugs, OK? He doesn't know what the hell he's doing," said Earle, 74.
"Otherwise he wouldn't be using drugs."Jennifer Farrell, spokeswoman for the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, said addicts can't be forced to stay against their will.
"If you were to do so, you are depriving them of their liberty, which violates their rights to due process protected by state and federal constitutions," said Farrell, whose agency regulates treatment programs statewide.
Earle had been given detox medicines, said Dr. Constantine Ioannou of the psychiatry department.
Earle was warned about taking drugs after leaving, Alalade said, because they "now can be very fatal to you" because the detox medicines lower the body's tolerance. "It can kill you because your body can't handle it," Alalade said.
Police are investigating where Earle, who the hospital says was a user of cocaine, marijuana and more, and the woman obtained the heroin they are suspected of taking.
Earle's family, who said they learned of his habit about a year ago, spent Thursday planning a funeral. "Now," the grandfather said, "I gotta bury a child."