Generally, when you think of a person suffering injury due to a delay in treatment, you think of a doctor who did not correctly diagnose a patient quickly or misdiagnosed the patient’s condition. As a result the patient does not receive treatment, or does not receive the proper treatment, quickly. As a result the patient suffers injury. In a slightly different situation, a prison inmate has recently sued the prison in which he was incarcerated for deliberately ignoring his condition, medical malpractice, and negligence when they failed to provide him with the medical attention he needed.
The inmate, Erick Thomas, started experiencing neck pain on February 1, 2012. He lost sensation within hours and was unable to move certain parts of his body. He cried out in pain and requested medical assistance for hours, while corrections officers and a nurse did not respond because they did not take him seriously.
The prison nurse, Eleanor Fuller, told Thomas he was experiencing muscle spans and gave him ibuprofen. The lawsuit cites that during her shift change, Fuller left a not in the nursing shift report that referred to Thomas as faking his condition.
Thomas reportedly fell out of his bed later that evening, and was not able to get back up. He claims that he was on the floor for more than an hour before his yells were responded to by officers. According to the lawsuit one officer, Lieutenant Plumm, told Thomas to stop playing and that if he did not get off the ground he would be sent to the hole. Thomas was lifted into his bed by two officers, however he fell again when trying to reach the toilet in his cell, after which he claims he was left there until morning.
The next morning, Thomas was examined by the on-duty physician. He was then taken to the emergency room by ambulance. Once there a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam showed that Thomas had a large epidural hematoma that was compressing and displacing his spinal cord. After being diagnosed, surgery was performed to treat the blood clot. He was diagnosed as having Brown-Sequard syndrome. This neurological disorder was a result of the damage to his spine.
Since the injury, Thomas has not regained feeling to the right side of his body. His lawsuit claims that his continued disabilities and symptoms and there severity, were a result of the delay in his treatment. A spokesman for the Department of Corrections would not comment on the active litigation. However, he did say that prisoners do have legal rights to medical care that is consistent with community standards. Thomas is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
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