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County jail target of medical malpractice lawsuits

Even when a person breaks the law, he or she is still entitled to receive adequate medical care while incarcerated. Unfortunately, Connecticut jails are overcrowded, and sometimes the sheer volume of inmates leads to doctor errors being made. This can have serious repercussions for the inmates affected, including long-term disability and, in a few cases, death.

Though these medical malpractice incidents didn't occur in Connecticut, readers may be interested in hearing about the families suing over the deaths of two men who passed away in jail this year. According to court documents, both inmates had serious medical conditions and died as a result of not receiving proper medical attention. One suit was filed in April and the second was filed in September.

The April lawsuit against the county where the jail was claims a 50-year-old man, who had been arrested for a probation violation, had been improperly treated for alcohol withdrawal. The man was taken to jail on March 2, 2010. Allegedly, the nurse on staff prescribed a detoxification medication but the dosage was too low. The man began having seizures and died on Mar. 14, 2010.

The September case involves another 50-year-old man, who was taken to the same jail on charges of shoplifting and animal nuisance. The family claims the man was taking six medications to treat several medical problems, including bipolar disorder and cirrhosis of the liver, but the nurse on staff only reported he was taking two. The man's condition worsened, and he was taken to the hospital, where he died three days later.

The attorney for the county stated that it is sometimes difficult to determine if an inmate is really ill. While that may be true, it is typically best to err on the side of safety and have people properly diagnosed by competent medical professionals to avoid fatal mistakes. It is uncertain how much compensation the families are asking for.

Source: Associated Press, "Berkeley sued by estates of those who die in jail," Nov. 12, 2012

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