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Negligent Health Care For Prisoners Can Be Fatal

People serving time in prison do not get a lot of sympathy from the general public. However, these are still people’s sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. They are serving time according to their sentence and there is nothing that says they should be denied basic healthcare. 

Unfortunately, when medical personnel make mistakes or fail to follow proper procedures when caring for an inmate, there may be no one to speak up for their rights. Family members who have a loved one who died in custody caused by a medical reason face an uphill battle. The only way to get answers may be to contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer who understands how to get justice for the family. 

Death of Inmate Struggling to Breathe and Begging for Medical Attention

Kenneth Johnson was spending time in the North State Correctional Facility in Newport, Vermont. In December of 2019, Johnson was in the infirmary and struggling to breathe. Johnson begged for medical attention and banged on the window for the nurse but they did not respond. In the early morning hours, Johnson was eventually transferred to a hospital and pronounced dead shortly after. 

According to prison officials, the cause of death was cited as “natural causes.” However, other inmates indicate they could have done more to help. Johnson had been complaining of difficulty breathing for more than a week. Another inmate in the infirmary with Johnson said the nurse said to stop bothering them because he was faking a medical emergency. 

Investigation Finds Failures in Prison Health Care

After multiple investigations, the interim Corrections Commissioner Jim Baker said that the inmate’s death showed significant failures in the prison system’s medical care. In Johnson’s case, this included failure to diagnose tumors which were blocking Johnson’s airway and the nursing staff’s failure to respond to life-threatening symptoms. 

According to Baker, “No one should die in our custody the way that Mr. Johnson passed away.”

Failure to Diagnose Cancer

There have been great advances in cancer treatment over the past few decades. However, much of the treatment is based on early diagnosis and early treatment. The longer cancer has to grow and spread, the more damage it can do and the more difficult it may be to treat. 

Failure to diagnose cancer is a common form of medical malpractice. Even when there are all the signs and symptoms that should point to a cancer diagnosis, or at least justify further investigation, some doctors just ignore the symptoms, fail to communicate their findings, or even forget about their patients.  

Most cancer diagnosis medical malpractice cases are based on: 

  • Delayed diagnosis: The cancer is not diagnosed as early as it should have, where the delay can lead to serious or fatal consequences. 
  • Incorrect diagnosis or misdiagnosis: A doctor misinterprets or misidentifies the signs and symptoms of cancer, which can delay proper treatment and cause more damage.  
  • Failure to diagnose: A doctor fails to provide a cancer diagnosis, allowing the cancer to potentially worsen and cause further harm and suffering to the patient. 

Medical Malpractice Attorneys

If you or a loved one suffered injury or harm related to a failed diagnosis or other medical mistake, talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney about your case. Gilman & Bedigian can help you get compensation for your losses. Contact us for help today online or call (800) 529-6162 today. 

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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