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Substandard Medical Care While Incarcerated

All incarcerated persons have a constitutionally guaranteed right to “adequate health care.” In fact, as has been stated by the United States Supreme Court over the last several decades, prisoners are the only members of society for whom health care is considered to be a fundamental and inalienable right under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The Impact of Substandard Medical Care

However, despite the constitutional guarantee of adequate health care provision and judicially mandated standards of care, inmates and prisoners in American prisons and jails are often subjected to substandard and inadequate medical care while incarcerated. Problematically, in many instances, the substandard care provided to incarcerated individuals results in serious and preventable injuries, misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose life-threatening illnesses, and death.

The substandard care provided to inmates and prisoners is made even more significant by the fact that incarcerated individuals are much more likely to suffer from mental illness and have higher rates of high blood pressure, asthma, cancer, arthritis, infectious disease (like HIV and Hepatitis C), and sexually transmitted disease. Indifference or substandard treatment of these ailments can have detrimental, even life-threatening, impacts on an individual’s overall health and wellbeing.

“Adequate Health Care” and Standards on Treatment of Prisoners

The standard of care, as proposed by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care and affirmed by the First Circuit Court of Appeals, is to “adequate” care at a level “reasonable commensurate with modern medical science.” While this explanation offers little insight into what “adequate” care actually looks like, 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 all inmates.

Under the ABA Standards, “adequate health care” means all American jails and prisons must:

  • Provide prisoners preventive, routine, urgent, and emergency care
  • Provide special health care for physical or mental disabilities
  • Provide individualized mental health care treatment and habilitation services
  • Provide dental care to treat pain, eliminate dental pathology and ensure a prisoner’s ability to chew
  • Provide timely access to all health care staff
  • Provide drug and alcohol addiction and withdrawal treatment
  • Provide timely and confidential means to communicate health care needs
  • Provide safe and sanitary facilities for diagnosis and treatment of illness, disease, and injury
  • Provide basic educational materials on disease prevention, good health, hygiene and proper usage of medication
  • Provide access to specialists for serious or life-threatening illnesses
  • Ensure continuity of care during all aspects of incarceration (entry into the prison, confinement, transportation, etc.)
  • Ensure an ongoing evaluation process to assess and improve health care
  • Maintain confidential health records available to prisoners at all times
  • Provide prenatal and postpartum care and treatment for pregnant inmates
  • Provide an adequate diet, clothing and appropriate accommodations for pregnant inmates
  • Facilitate access to abortion services for pregnant inmates
  • Provide prosthetic devices and impairment-related aids such as eyeglasses, hearing aids and wheelchairs for impaired prisoners
  • Provide treatment for gender identity disorder
  • Get voluntary and informed consent for all treatment

Holding Correctional Facilities Accountable

Failure to provide care consistent with the standards above is considered to be substandard under the law.

Inmates and prisoners subjected to care inconsistent with the above standards – especially care resulting in or worsening significant injuries, illnesses or death – may sue the jail, prison and/or facility health care provider for any and all damages in a tort law medical malpractice or negligence claim.

How Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC Can Help

One of the biggest challenges associated with claims against correctional facilities and correction healthcare providers is the inherent bias against incarcerated plaintiffs in the United States court system. This makes qualified and respected representation in these claims all the more important.

That is where the extensively experienced team of trial attorneys at Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC comes in. Our aggressive client advocacy and trial strategy have resulted in overwhelming success in prison medical malpractice and negligence claims, leading to millions of dollars in awards for our clients around the United States.  If a loved one or someone you know was provided substandard medical care while incarcerated and suffered serious injury or death as a result, Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC is dedicated to helping them seek the compensation they deserve. To begin the claims process, contact Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC at (503) 226-6361 or fill out our online intake form today for your free case evaluation.

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