Denver Civil Rights Attorney for Deliberate Indifference to Medical Necessity
“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
~ Amendment XIII, United States Constitution
One of the most fundamental principles in American thought is the belief that all people – regardless of what they’ve done or what their current states may be – are equal human beings, worthy of certain rights and dignities. As civil rights attorneys, these particular dignities, including the right to adequate medical care, are of special importance to us and we fight passionately to protect them and to defend you from anyone – even the government that declared you guilty – who tries to violate them.
According to the 1976 Supreme Court case Estelle v. Gamble, deliberate indifference to medical necessity is considered “cruel and unusual punishment,” and therefore a violation of the Eighth Amendment.* If you’ve had a serious health need ignored, a treatment unreasonably delayed, or have received substandard treatment because of a so-called “bad medical judgement” that you believe was motivated more by a personal judgement about your crime than a medical judgement about your health, then contact us today and let us defend your rights.
What Constitutes a “Medical Necessity”?
Deliberate indifference to medical necessity has two components. First, you must have a “medical necessity,” which means that your medical condition must be serious enough for treatment to be considered imperative, not optional. If you have a common cold and are denied cough syrup, you have not met the threshold for a “serious medical condition.” However, if you have pneumonia and are denied antibiotics, this could easily meet the bar.
In general, a “serious medical condition” meets one or more of the following qualifications:
- A medical need obvious enough that a reasonable person would recognize it as needing treatment
- A medical condition that has been diagnosed by a doctor as requiring treatment
- A condition that causes severe, chronic pain
- A condition that significantly impairs daily activity
For example, in one case won by our office, an inmate contracted MERSA, a particularly aggressive staff infection, and was denied treatment for a prolonged period of time. When he was finally hospitalized, his infection was so advanced he was airlifted from the local hospital to another facility, where he spent two weeks in ICU. We proved a clear case of medical indifference, which you can read about in detail here.
What Constitutes “Deliberate Indifference?”
Regardless of how serious your health condition is, failure to provide medical care is not itself grounds for an Eighth Amendment case. A second bar must be met as well – that of “deliberate indifference.”
In short, this means that the authorities knew about the problem or knew that a problem most likely existed, recognized it as potentially serious, but failed to act. Ignorance, poor judgement, or medical malpractice are serious charges, but not sufficient to warrant deliberate indifference. The officers or prison staff must know about the issues and recognize as dangerous before failure to act becomes deliberate indifference.
This may take many forms, including:
- Ignoring obvious poor health
- Failing to investigate claims of poor health enough to make a reasonable judgement
- Delaying or refusing to provide treatment for a diagnosed medical condition
- Making a “medical” decision based on non-medical factors, such as the person’s crime
Civil Rights Litigation Group – Your Defense Against Medical Indifference
At the Civil Rights Litigation Group, we believe that all people have the right to be treated humanely and that this includes protecting the life and health of people with serious needs. If you’ve been denied treatment for a serious health condition or injury, give us a call today to discuss your situation. We’re always ready to listen and if you have a case, will fight aggressively on your behalf.
Give us a call today at (720) 515-6165.
*The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits criminals from receiving retribution that goes beyond punishment for what they’ve done and begins to impeach upon who they are, i.e. their dignity as human beings, guarantees protection from “cruel and unusual punishment.”