The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment including deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of an inmate. Unfortunately, in the age of mass incarceration, this is far too common.

Deliberate Indifference of Prisoner’s Serious Medical Needs

The deliberate indifference may be on the part of the prison, the guards and/or the medical providers. It could result from the lack of provision of medical care by the prison. It might also include interference with prescribed care on the part of the guards and staff. Finally, it may and typically does include neglect of serious medical conditions on the part of the medical provider.

In each of these cases, the prisoner might have a §1983 claim under the Eighth Amendment. In addition, the prisoner might also have a medical malpractice claim against the medical provider who is in New Mexico often a private medical group.

Medical Malpractice Claim Against Medical Prison Medical Provider

A medical malpractice case, particularly against a private medical group or doctor, would follow the rules and procedures for the most part of any medical malpractice claim. As such, the standard for the doctor is not deliberate indifference but violation of the standard of care in the medical profession or medical field.

In brief, the standards for the medical provider are higher than for guards for obvious reasons.
Guards simply are not trained to identify medical conditions in the absence of clear signs of illness.

Standards for Guards: Objective v. Subjective Requirements

There is a two prong test for deliberate indifference of medical needs in prisons and jails. First is the objective part which basically means that the prisoner was actually sick and needed medical care. In other words, there would at some point need to be a diagnosis of the illness or the illness would have to very obvious even to a guard. Finally, the court will consider whether the symptoms suggested a serious medical need along with whether potential harm to the prisoner was serious.

The subjective component requires that the guard, staff, medical provider knew of the risks to the prisoner and chose to ignore them. This knowledge may be imputed if the symptoms would suggest to the average person that the prisoner was suffering a serious medical condition or event. In this case, the guard should take action to protect the prisoner through an appropriate medical referral for treatment. Keep in mind, that if the guard does take reasonable action to obtain medical care, there is no 8th Amendment violation even if the outcome turns out poorly for the prisoner.

For Profit Prisons and Prison Medical Care

Medical neglect in privately run prisons and/or privately managed medical services inside of prisons often results from profit driven medical decisions. Medical care is expensive and not particularly aligned with the profit motive.

Mass incarceration for profit is the primary culprit. There have been trends toward criminal justice reform that might have alleviated this. However, it appears that those trends may have abruptly come to an end.


New SPLC report uncovers abuse and neglect at immigrant detention centers in the South | Southern Poverty Law Center

New SPLC report uncovers abuse and neglect at immigrant detention centers in the South | Southern Poverty Law Center “Flooding the immigration detention system with hundreds of thousands of additional people will only lead to a grave human rights crisis.”

In addition to identifying inadequate medical care and widespread abuses, the study found that many immigrants languish in detention centers for months or sometimes years – typically without legal counsel and in violation of their rights – as they await hearings or deportation.


The Shocking Way ICE Neglected Immigrant Detainees As They Died

The Shocking Way ICE Neglected Immigrant Detainees As They Died At least 18 people detained in U.S. federal immigration custody received subpar medical care that may have contributed to their deaths, a scathing new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report finds.

The people who have recently died in immigration detention included legal immigrants, undocumented immigrants, and people looking for protection under the country’s refugee law. The report reviews 31 cases of death after some of those details were released in June by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Detention Oversight (ODO).