Skip to Content

Imprisonment Does Not Exclude Right to Medical Care


An ex-inmate’s family in Hartford, Connecticut filed a medical malpractice claim for $1.3 million after three years of their son being treated for psoriasis when he, in fact, had subcutaneous lymphoma. The Department of Corrections anticipates more lawsuits and medical malpractice cases to come their way. The care that has been received by their contracted provider, UConn Health, has left the corrections department with a number of deaths and other flagged cases. The state prisons have said the healthcare provided had very little oversight and lacked quality control. A proper standard of care is not reserved for an elite group of people. Good healthcare should be accessible to everyone – even those who are incarcerated.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, “prison officials are obligated under the Eighth Amendment to provide prisoners with adequate medical care.” This includes medical, dental, and mental health care. A prisoner may have their own outside healthcare provider, under certain guidelines, or they may utilize the assigned healthcare provider by their specific facility. In other words, unless the prisoner himself or herself ignores that they need medical attention, they should have fair and just access to any medical treatment they may need.

Unfortunately, there are numerous ways in which prisoners may experience medical negligence or malpractice. One way is by deliberate indifference. Deliberate indifference is when a prison official recklessly or intentionally disregards a sense of harm or risk a prisoner may be experiencing. In other words, if a prison official can tell or has been notified that an inmate requires medical attention of any kind, but ignores the flag, then they may be at fault for deliberate indifference. Oftentimes, prisoners face similar negligence that nursing home patients do. They are often feared, overlooked or not given much power to express their needs. In the case of prisoners, sometimes they don’t understand that they have the same rights to medical care as they would if they were not imprisoned. They may not have the same options, however, they are never to be given anything less than the standard of care.

There are numerous ways that deliberate indifference can be defined. A few examples may be:

  • A prisoner being denied care or experiencing a serious delay in access to medical attention
  • A physician failing to carry out medical orders
  • A physician failing or lagging to make a professional judgment

There are also a number of ways in which prisons are required to create safe and healthy living spaces for their inmates. For example, a person may not have an existing medical condition, however being exposed to secondhand smoke may create an issue or worsen an unknown, existing issue. Also, in the event that an inmate is pregnant, they are to be flagged as having a serious medical need, especially in the later stages of their pregnancy.

Under the Eighth Amendment, prison officials are required to offer ready access to medical care for their inmates. In short, inmates should have access to daily care or should be able to be seen by a medical professional on a daily basis if needed. Another way in which deliberate indifference may occur is if on-site staff is ineligible or not competent to examine, diagnose, or treat prisoners.

All in all, prisoners are not exempt from receiving quality medical care. If you or a loved one has been neglected in prison or refused medical attention, do not wait for their conditions to worsen. If you need representation, seek guidance from a professional team such as Buckingham & Vega. We will happily provide a free consultation for you or your family.

Share To: