Medical Malpractice Scandals Rock the State’s Prison System
In Connecticut, an extraordinary medical malpractice scandal has citizens up in arms. The Hartford Courant reports that the Connecticut prison system, which has already had to replace its correction commissioner over his inability to handle what is a growing scandal, has come under scrutiny once again after the death of an inmate.
Malpractice by Misdiagnosis
According to the article, William Bennett came in to see UConn Health doctors and nurses after his voice went hoarse and it became difficult to swallow. The doctors diagnosed him with acid reflux and sent him on his way. Later, he had to be rushed from the correctional facility to the operating room, where emergency surgery failed to remove what had become an 11×4 inch tumor covering his larynx. He ended up dying on the surgical table, just a month before his scheduled release.
This latest case comes just a month and a half after the state settled a different lawsuit involving an inmate whose cancer was misdiagnosed. Wayne World was serving a 17-year sentence for manslaughter when he was misdiagnosed, and had skin answer toward the end of his sentence that went untreated. A Connecticut civil court awarded him $1.3 million in damages. The state could stand to face up to 25 more cases of medical malpractice lodged against its prison system in the near future.
The Courant cites one major cause for the breakdown in inmate healthcare: a lack of medical personnel. 120 jobs remain open in the prison’s medical system, which has left medical staff stretched thin. The Courant even claims that “some prisons don’t have a practitioner who can write prescriptions.”
Another Courant article cites the case of Dr. Ricardo Ruiz, who is the lone physician in charge of 1,500 inmates: ““Even quarantining someone with chicken pox is an ordeal,” Ruiz is quoted as saying. “Access to care becomes a huge problem, getting seen, having follow-ups. We’ve got high infection rates in prison and a small window of opportunity to treat them, since most inmates are returning to the community. It would be devastating if the infections spread — it is a recipe for disaster.”
In addition to the corrections commissioner, the state has also ended its contract with UConn Health in light of what is happening. Residents of Connecticut are hopeful for reform, now that a new Governor has replaced the incumbent, who failed to make any meaningful changes. But time will tell how future malpractice suits might impact the future of Connecticut’s healthcare system.