December 29, 2012

It is not very often that a medical malpractice claim in one country has led to international repercussions in which sovereign countries have enacted laws directed at officials of other countries in a spiraling escalation of retaliatory responses. But that is apparently what is happening this month due to incidents that occurred in a Russian prison in 2008 – 2009.

Russian activist-lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was a lawyer for the Hermitage Capital fund when he was arrested in 2008 on suspicion of tax evasion by the Russian Interior Ministry officials whom he accused of using false tax documents to steal $230 million from Russia, was awaiting trial on those charges when he died while imprisoned on November 16, 2009 at the age of 37, from alleged untreated pancreatitis. Mr. Magnitsky allegedly was the victim of severe beatings and the lack of medical care during his incarceration. The only person to be charged with negligence arising out of the lack of medical treatment provided to Mr. Magnitsky was the prison doctor, Dmitry Kratov. On December 28, 2012, a Russian judge acquitted Dr. Kratov of the medical negligence charge against him.

Despite what some have described as overwhelming evidence of Dr. Kratov’s responsibility for Mr. Magnitsky’s death, the defendant pleaded not guilty to the charge of negligence leading to death, contending that he was unable to provide medical care for Mr. Magnitsky because of a shortage of staff in the Butyrskaya prison, where he was the deputy chief physician during the time of Mr. Magnitsky’s imprisonment.


Russian and Western activists alike decried the Russian government’s failure to investigate police officials who may have had involvement in the matter, which led the U.S. Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act that was signed into law by President Obama on December 6, 2012. The Magnitsky Act is specifically directed at Russian officials suspected of being responsible for the prison death of Mr. Magnitsky but also contains U.S. visa and financial sanctions against all Russian officials allegedly guilty of “gross violations of human rights.”

Russia retaliated against the passage of the Magnitsky Act when the Duma (Russia’s lower parliamentary house) adopted “the Dima Yakovlev law” that suspends the activities of U.S. non-governmental organizations that operate in Russia and bans U.S. officials who have allegedly imprisoned Russian nationals or sentenced Russian citizens to “unreasonably severe punishments” from receiving entry visas to Russia.

Russian President Putin signed into law on December 28, 2012 the Dima Yakovlev law that also bans U.S. citizens from adopting Russian children (Dima Yakovlev was a Russian boy who died when his U.S. adoptive father left him in a car — during the past 20 years, 19 Russian children have been killed by their U.S. adoptive parents or died allegedly as a result of their U.S. adoptive parents´ fault).


While the death of a prisoner due to medical negligence usually does not make international headlines or result in new laws being enacted, the death or serious injury of any inmate due to medical malpractice cannot be tolerated.

If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries or other harms due to prison medical malpractice, you should promptly seek the advice of a local medical malpractice attorney to investigate the claim.

Click here to visit our website or telephone us toll-free 800-295-3959 to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your state who may be willing to investigate the possible inmate medical malpractice claim and file a medical malpractice claim against the appropriate responsible parties, if appropriate.

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