Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession (7)9 Sep 99
Quick Summary: The two nurses conscientiously listened to the inmates complaints and performed competent physical assessments to determine if he really did have a shoulder dislocation as he said.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently upheld the decision of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois we reported in November, 1998. (Correctional-Center Nurses: Court Finds No Civil Rights Violation, Dismisses Inmates Charge Of Deliberate Indifference To Serous Medical Need. Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession (6)11, Nov. 98 p.4.)
The court agreed that a nurse or other correctional-center medical personnel can be sued by an inmate for a violation of the inmates Constitutional rights if there has been deliberate indifference to the inmates serious medical need.
With some difficulty the nurses confirmed that circulation, motion and sensation were normal. The nurses acknowledged he was in pain, dispensed some Tylenol and put him on the list to be seen by the physician the next morning.
The court accepted their testimony they saw no genuine physical signs of a shoulder dislocation such as extreme pain or the patient attempting to support the affected arm. On the contrary, the patient seemed mentally distracted, suggesting malingering or a psychological overlay.
If the nurses had not listened to the inmate, not assessed him and not made an effort to have him seen by a physician reasonably soon, and he really had a dislocated shoulder, that would be deliberate indifference and would be grounds for an inmates civil rights lawsuit against the nurses and their employer, an agency that provided jail medical staff, the court said. Higgins v. Correctional Medical Services of Illinois, Inc., 178 F. 3d 508 (7th Cir., 1999).