Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession (7)9 Sep 99
Quick Summary: A correctional inmate can sue a nursing caregiver for deliberate indifference to serious medical need. An inmates medical need is serious when even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for medical attention.
Deliberate indifference means no effort is made to assess or treat the inmates complaints. It means the attention given the inmate is so clearly inadequate as to amount to a refusal to provide essential care. UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, MAINE, 1999.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Maine recently upheld a jail inmates civil rights lawsuit against the county, the countys correctional officers and the nurse who provided healthcare services in the county jail.
An inmate complained of heavy vaginal bleeding and said she was about to have a miscarriage. She said she knew it was a miscarriage because she had one five years earlier.
The nurse took her pulse, told her it was normal menstruation, ordered her to lie down and then threatened to put her in a smaller cell if she refused to be quiet. The inmate had a miscarriage alone in her jail cell early the next morning.
The court ruled the patients complaints involved a serious medical condition. Further, the nurse without any excuse failed to provide essential medical care, which the court said amounted to deliberate indifference to a serious medical need and was a violation of the inmates Constitutional rights. Ferris v. County of Kennebec, 44 F. Supp. 2d 62 (D. Maine, 1999).