When Prison Personnel Fail to Provide Appropriate Inmate Medical Care
Your Rights When Prison Personnel Fail to Provide Inmate Medical Care
People who have been incarcerated are unable to seek medical attention on their own. As a result, it is the responsibility and legal requirement of prison staff members to provide adequate medical care. When an inmate is denied medical treatment in jail or prison, those officers are violating that person’s civil rights and breaking the law.
Prison inmates could sustain permanent or fatal harm if:
- They do not receive treatment for physical injuries, diseases or conditions.
- A health care professional does not administer appropriate medication.
- They suffer from mental illness and do not receive the needed care.
Leaving prison inmates sick, injured, or in pain is appalling and unacceptable. At Gay & Chacker, we are committed to obtaining justice for inmates who have been injured after not receiving proper medical care. Our firm is based in Philadelphia, PA, but we serve clients in the greater Mid-Atlantic region. We welcome you to contact our firm for help or advice.
Failure to Provide Adequate Medical Care is Common
Sadly, poor access to care is rampant among the country’s inmate population. A study by the Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School found that:
- More than 20 percent of sick inmates in state prisons had not seen a health care professional since they were incarcerated.
- Nearly 14 percent in federal prisons had not seen a health care professional since they were incarcerated.
- Sixty-eight percent of inmates with persistent medical problems had not seen a health care professional since they were incarcerated.
Hundreds of thousands of inmates have chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and heart or kidney problems, all of which require timely and appropriate medical care.
In addition to seeing a health care professional when necessary, inmates have a right to receive the medication they need – whether to treat an illness, disease, chronic condition, persistent pain, or a psychological disorder. Inmates who are facing addiction to opioids also deserve access to medication treatment. Research has shown that providing treatment in prison can prevent relapse and risk of overdose later. Some correctional facilities are beginning to offer inmates medication for opioid addiction, but many still refuse these treatments.
Protecting Inmates’ Rights to Medication and Medical Care
The American Civil Liberties Union lists several factors that determine if an inmate has a serious medical need. In short, these needs can be any condition that requires treatment as diagnosed by a physician, but they can also be those that are obvious to anyone as needing medical attention.
For decades, Gay & Chacker has worked to protect inmates who were hurt or died after they were denied appropriate medication or care. In one case, the firm obtained an $11.9 million jury verdict for the family of a man who committed suicide as an inmate. The lawsuit claimed that the facility’s medical staff failed to evaluate his need for antidepressants and risk for suicide. The man’s wife, our client, had sought $800,000 to settle before trial but was rejected by the defendants. Gay & Chacker obtained a verdict nearly 15 times the initial settlement demand. The $11.9 million award included $8 million in punitive damages, which was reversed by judgment notwithstanding verdict (JNOV). The firm appealed this decision to the Third Circuit, which reversed the District Court Judge’s decision, ordering the defendant to pay the $8 million and denying the defendant’s order for a new trial. Our firm is based in Philadelphia, PA, but we serve clients in the greater Mid-Atlantic region. We can also connect inmates and their families to resources outside of our area.
What is Deliberate Indifference?
The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that cruel and unusual punishment should never be inflicted on any person. A 1976 case titled Estelle v. Gamble noted that a prison inmate “… must rely on prison authorities to treat his medical needs; if the authorities fail to do so, those needs will not be met. In the worst cases, such a failure may actually produce physical torture or a lingering death.” The case also cited the Eighth Amendment as prohibiting the “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” Preventing unnecessary pain means providing appropriate medical care and medication to inmates.
The same case determined that according to the Eighth Amendment, a prison officer’s “deliberate indifference” to a prisoner’s serious illness or injury constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Deliberate indifference refers to an official’s reckless disregard of the substantial risk of harm to the prisoner despite knowing about the risk and the need to take reasonable steps to remove that risk.
Action Inmates’ Spouses Can Take
If your spouse is not receiving adequate medical care as an inmate, there are a few things you can do to protect his or her rights. First, confirm that the prison and staff are aware of your spouse’s medical condition(s), and get that confirmation in writing and dated with as many details as possible. That way, they are unable to argue later that they did not know about your spouse’s medical needs. Anything else you are able to have documented will be helpful – medical care appointment requests and notes, complaints by your spouse, medical records, and anything else with related details. As much information you can gather will help your case later. If your spouse has suffered an illness or injury, contact our firm as soon as possible to discuss what happened. There is no obligation when you call, and no matter where you live, we can help you take the right steps to help your spouse.
Get Legal Help If You Did Not Receive Inmate Medical Care
Failing to provide adequate medical care to an inmate is a civil rights violation and should be addressed immediately. The prison rights lawyers at Gay & Chacker fight for justice on behalf of inmates who have suffered illness or injury after they did not receive the right care. Our firm is based in Philadelphia, PA, but we serve clients in the greater Mid-Atlantic region. For those who live outside of our area, we can provide resources to help them seek justice when they call our firm.
If you or a loved one suffered harm due to a lack of inmate medical care, we can help. Contact our experienced attorneys to learn how we help people whose rights have been violated. During a free, no-obligation consultation, we’ll discuss how to move forward with obtaining justice and compensation.