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Failure to Send Inmates to a Hospital or Specialist

Unlike members of the general population, all inmates – whether in a federal penitentiary, state prison, or county jail – have a constitutionally guaranteed right to “adequate health care” under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. As such, incarcerated persons in the United States are provided cost-free medical care, either by a correctional facility’s medical staff or a privately contracted correctional healthcare company.

The “Adequate Health Care” Standard

While not explicitly stated in the United States Supreme Court case decisions which established an inmate’s right to healthcare, the American Bar Association (ABA) Criminal Justice Standards on Treatment of Prisoners provides an in-depth outline of the care which should be provided to prisoners in order to meet the “adequate health care” standard under the law. Included within the ABA Standards are a series of requirements for inmates to be taken to hospitals and referred to specialists for care outside the scope and capabilities of the correctional care facilities and staff.

Instances of illness and injury which necessitate evaluation and treatment by a specialist, or transfer to a hospital include:

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Cancer
  • Tuberculosis
  • Seizure
  • Coma
  • Serious or potentially life-threatening injury
  • Terminal illness
  • Chronic illness
  • Significant or extreme pain
  • Surgical procedures
  • Dental procedures
  • End-of-life care

Failure to Send Inmates to Hospitals or Specialists is Unconstitutional

Despite the constitutionally guaranteed rights to such care and the explicit protocols outlined in the ABA standards, correctional facilities often never refer inmates to specialists or refuse to transfer them to hospitals for necessary treatment of extreme illness and injury. This is most common with privately contracted correctional healthcare companies, as off-site hospital and specialist care makes up a majority of their annual expenditures, which for-profit entities have an incentive to limit. Regardless of the rationale, correctional facilities are liable for all medical care provided to inmates, including the refusal of care.

Failure to provide inmates “adequate health care,” by refusing them access to specialist or hospital care, constitutes negligence, deliberate indifference, and medical malpractice on the part of the correctional facility and correctional healthcare providers. Notably, constitutional guarantees to hospital and specialist treatment include the provision of timely care; meaning that correctional facilities which are notified of an inmate’s extreme illness or injury and do not provide them the necessary care as soon as possible following notice, are also considered to have acted negligently or with deliberate indifference.

Your Options

Inmates and their estates who’ve suffered significant injury or death as a result of negligence, deliberate indifference, or medical malpractice by a correctional facility and its medical providers, may sue the responsible providers for any and all damages (including punitive damages) in a tort law claim.

Past lawsuits for failure to transfer seriously ill and injured inmates to hospitals or provide specialist care have resulted in jury awards in the millions of dollars, with some in excess of ten million dollars. Because each instance of prison healthcare negligence, deliberate indifference, and medical malpractice is unique, it is best to consult with an experienced prison medical malpractice attorney before attempting to file a claim.

How Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC Can Help

Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC is one of the nation’s elite teams of attorneys, specializing in prison medical malpractice, negligence and deliberate indifference claims. Some our areas of expertise include inadequate emergency care, misdiagnosis of cancer, and substandard medical care. The trial lawyers at Paulson Coletti have extensive experience litigating multi-million dollar claims against prisons and correctional healthcare providers in all 50 states of the United States and pride ourselves on our unmatched client-centric representation.

If a loved one or someone you know suffered serious injury or death and was refused specialist or hospital care while incarcerated, we highly encourage you to contact Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC at (503) 226-6361 or fill out our online intake form for your free case evaluation today.

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