On January 24, 2012, a federal jury in New Mexico awarded a substantial amount to a man who spent two years in solitary confinement in jail after his arrest for DWI. He was placed in a padded cell at the time of his arrest because he was considered to be a suicide risk. Three days later, he was transferred to solitary confinement allegedly due to his mental health issues. He was never brought to trial or brought before a judge during his two years of imprisonment.
During the two years he spent in solitary confinement, he had to pull his own tooth because he was not provided with any dental care. During his two years in solitary confinement, his requests to see a doctor in order to obtain medication for his depression also fell on deaf ears. His toenails began curling around his foot because he was not provided proper medical care.
Inmates in solitary confinement are supposed to have one hour per day outside of their prison cells, but this inmate was deprived of his one hour outside his cell on many occasions. He was also deprived of showers that resulted in a fungus growing under his skin. As time went on, he lost his will to live or to leave the prison. Since his release, he has been diagnosed with PTSD for which he may be required to take medication for the rest of his life.
The federal jury that heard the man’s lawsuit, including his medical malpractice claims, returned a verdict in the man’s favor in the amount of $22 million. The New Mexico county against which the verdict was entered has stated its intention to file an appeal.
Inmates may suffer increased risk of becoming victims of medical malpractice not only because many of their legal rights are severely limited and they are practically powerless to seek redress while incarcerated, but also because once prisoners are out of the public’s sight, they are out of the public’s mind. The public’s lack of knowledge of the lack of adequate medical care in correctional facilities helps prisons skirt their legal responsibility to provide those under their auspices with humane treatment.
Studies have shown that a disproportionate number of prisoners throughout the United States are suffering from mental health issues. Unfortunately, most of those inmates do not receive the proper mental health care or medical care. Many prisoners leave prison in worse medical and mental condition than when they were first incarcerated.
The scourge suffered by prisoners due to the lack of medical and mental health care in prisons is a national disgrace. If we do not treat people in prison with at least a modicum of compassion and care then we are all responsible for their conditions upon their release.
If you or a loved one were the victim of medical malpractice, or worse, visit our website or call us toll free at 800-295-3959 to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your local area who may be willing and able to investigate your possible medical malpractice claim and file a medical malpractice case on your behalf, if appropriate.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.