Fatalities stemming from medical mistakes are estimated as the third leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. A former inmate at a Kansas prison has filed a claim of medical negligence against the Department of Corrections (DOC) and Corizon Health, their contracted healthcare provider. Sarah L. Cook alleges that the defendants failed to provide her medications in a timely manner despite multiple complaints. The claim states that the defendants demonstrated a failure in action to address “profuse bleeding and a rapidly decompensating medical condition.” Cook alleges that the inaction resulted in her needing to have her colon removed. Cook described her current quality of life as being “horrible.”
Cook, who is now 68 years of age, had apparently dealt with gastrointestinal problems for many years. Ordinarily, she used enemas and a simple diet to control her symptoms, which usually would last for a few days. Her doctors had previously told her that failure to address her conditions could cause a perforation in her bowel. Cook says she complained of significant intestinal conditions and bleeding from her rectum; however, the staff took weeks to obtain her needed medication. Shortly after being released, doctors determined that her bowel had been perforated, which forced them to remove her colon, thus requiring her to use a colostomy bag.
State officials told legislators this past year that they take grievances relating to medical care very seriously and that there has not been a successful lawsuit against the DOC or Corizon Health in recent years. Corizon touts their over 40 years of experience in providing effective medical care through an “evidence-based” treatment model. Viola Riggin, a director of health services, says that the number of lawsuits filed against the organization is relatively small considering that they treat millions of patients across the country. They also explained that providing medical care in a correctional environment is challenging because many of the inmates have existing untreated medical conditions.
History of Complaints
Much of what has been reported concerning the standards of medical care provided by Corizon Health runs contrary to the high-quality care that they claim to offer. In October, a federal suit was filed against Corizon after a 27-year-old died of a brain fungus that they allegedly failed to treat. This is one of many complaints; in fact, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, the organization has faced hundreds of medical malpractice claims in the prior five-year period. In 2016 and 2017, the state of Kansas penalized the company $3.4 million, most of which was the result of staffing shortages within their facilities.
Gastrointestinal & Bowel Conditions
Some of the facts regarding health conditions similar to those experienced by Cook are as follows:
- Perforations in the bowel often result from Crohn's disease, ulcers, and various other inflammations
- Surgical procedures for these problems are typically conducted by a colorectal surgeon, commonly referred to as a proctologist, who treats conditions that involve the colon, rectum, and intestines
- Some of the tools used in diagnosis and assessment include ultrasounds and colonoscopies
- Many bowel perforations occur from negligently performed surgical procedures
- When a surgeon inadvertently perforates the bowel, intestinal fluid can leak into other adjacent regions and cause major problems because the fluid may contain toxins such as bacteria