Inmates have a constitutional right to reasonably necessary health care during incarceration. Every prison employs and/or contracts physicians to provide medical services as needed. The responsibility extends to women who are pregnant while jailed. Officials are legally obligated to provide adequate prenatal care throughout the pregnancy and follow accepted medical standards to ensure a safe delivery for the mother and the child.
A recent CNN article discusses a Texas prisoner who was allegedly forced to give birth while in solitary confinement, with no medical care or assistance. According to the article, the woman was arrested on drug charges. Approximately nine days later, she learned that she was eight and a half months pregnant, during an examination with a jail doctor. The woman reportedly experienced cramping later in the evening. In the court documents, she claims that a nurse examined her and informed her that her pains were not labor related. The woman was reportedly in solitary confinement at the time of the alleged events. She claims that she repeatedly asked for medical assistance, as the pains worsened throughout the night. Her requests were allegedly ignored, until early the next morning, when a guard reportedly assisted her in giving birth. According to the court complaint, the baby’s umbilical cord was wrapped around its neck.https://www.levinperconti.com/lawyer-attorney-1090372.html
The woman alleges that the baby was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead. She also claims that she was forced to personally continue without medical assistance, and was instead returned to solitary confinement. A medical malpractice suit is currently pending in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Texas. It names Correctional Healthcare Management, which handles inmate health care needs for the state’s correctional facilities, and the nurse who determined she was not in labor.
The state of Texas produces a manual regarding medical care for prisoners within their systems. According to the Correctional Health Care Policy Manual, “Pregnant offenders will receive comprehensive health care in addition to appropriate sick call services, diet counseling, vitamins, routine specialty clinic appointments with obstetrical services and all laboratory testing as deemed necessary.” The lawsuit seeks to prove that the agency was negligent in not following its own policy.
The state of Illinois also has rules about the treatment of pregnant inmates, including regulations on restraints. Though the laws do not specifically speak to prenatal health care and delivery, the federal government maintains guidelines that state officials are required to follow. The National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) advises that pregnant inmates receive:
-Laboratory testing, including HIV screenings
-Prenatal nutritional counseling
-Delivery at a pre-established healthcare facility
Prisons are responsible for the provision of adequate healthcare to all inmates, with specific consideration for those who are pregnant. When minimum standards are not met by the correctional facility, it opens the state up to possible liability for injuries occurring to the mother and the newborn baby.
If you or a loved one experienced a birth injury or death while incarcerated, contact the attorneys of Levin & Perconti for a free consultation.
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