When a prisoner becomes ill or suffers an injury they are entitled to receive the same medical treatment as any other patient.  The fact that a person is incarcerated is not an excuse to deny them proper medical treatment or provide them with substandard treatment.  The law recognizes several possible causes of action when a prisoner does not receive the proper medical care.  These causes of action range from constitutional violations to state law medical malpractice claims.

The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects prisoners from cruel and inhuman punishment.  Case law which has interpreted this provision has held that deliberate indiference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain which is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.  In order to prevail on a claim alleging violation of constitutional rights resulting from inadequate medical care, the prisoner must allege acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.  Medical malpractice does not become a constitutional violation merely because the victim is a prisoner.  Thus, a complaint that a physician has been negligent in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not state a valid constitutional claim under the Eighth Amendment..  That indifference is manifested by prison doctors or guards in intentionally denying or delaying access to medical care or intentionally interfering with treatment once it is ordered. 

Cases alleging deliberate indifference are brought in the United States District Court for the District in which the medical negligect occurred.  Federal procedural law allows the claimaint to also assert state law medical malpractice negligence claims as an alternate theory of recovery in these cases.

Prisoners may also bring claims for medical malpractice in state court against the prison facility and/or medical provider.  These claims are governed by the procedures and law of each state (which may vary).  Some states require that a prisoner file an administrative complaint before allowing the case to proceed to state court.

Regardless of the specific cause of action, these cases require the testimony of expert witnesses who can review the medical care and determine if that care was improper.  It is also often necessary to retain experts in prison medical procedures to prove that the guards did not follow the appropriate protocols in rendering medical care to the prisoners.

These cases can be challenging and require experience and expertise in successfully handling the matter.  The Cochran Firm -Metairie has extensive experience in handling prisoner claims and has made new law in Louisiana with claims they have handled.