Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Needs

While an inmate is in the custody of a jail or prison, the institution and staff must provide medical services for serious health conditions. What happens if they show a purposeful indifference to serious medical needs, resulting in the injury or death of an inmate?

At Shealey Law Firm, our Columbia prison abuse attorneys understand the importance of giving a voice to those people the system mistreats and helping them and their families seek justice. Contact us to begin your case.

What Does It Mean To Show Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Needs?

To understand this concept, first, consider what constitutes a medical need. A serious medical condition has a diagnosis requiring treatment that could result in further, more significant injury or unnecessary pain if ignored. Deliberate indifference is a type of medical negligence.

Common examples include:

  • Denying prescribed medications to the inmate for a health condition
  • Refusing to treat a severe infection, especially when the situation is life-threatening
  • Failing to respond to symptoms that indicate a serious medical condition, such as signs of fatal heart conditions
  • Denying medical care that leads to wrongful death
  • Delaying access to qualified medical professionals for a serious condition

A serious medical need is not necessarily life-threatening. If the inmate would suffer without treatment, it is a medical need. If the provider and those in charge of the inmate’s custody refuse that care, that is deliberate indifference, and you would need to prove it if you want to recover compensation.

What Happens if There Is a Difference of Opinion?

Differing medical opinions require careful documentation. A common retort to accusations of deliberate indifference to serious medical needs is an argument against the inmate’s diagnosis or treatment plan. For example, the prison medical provider may disagree with hospital discharge instructions.

In these cases, the provider with a differing opinion must document their complete evaluation process and findings in the inmate’s medical records to display how they reached that opinion.

Is Deliberate Indifference a Violation of the 8th Amendment?

Failure to provide medical care in custody is a violation of the Eighth Amendment because this failure is “the conscious choice to disregard the consequences of one’s actions or omissions.” In the absence of the inmate’s authority over budgeting decisions, the Eighth Amendment requires the court to consider the context, meaning the resources reasonably available to the defendant. Ignoring the inmate’s medical needs when the resources are there violates their rights.

How Do You Prove Deliberate Indifference?

Substantiating deliberate indifference requires significant evidence, often more than standard medical malpractice. For example, If the inmate suffered medically because of an unnecessary delay in treatment, they must provide medical evidence that the wait was highly detrimental to their health.

If the jail or prison provides any form of care, they cannot be guilty of deliberate indifference, even if the care did not meet the inmate’s satisfaction. Even services below the standard of care for the general public are often acceptable. Therefore, the burden of proving deliberate indifference is heavy.

Legal Options Available to Families of Inmates Who Suffered Injuries or Died in Police Custody

The legal options available to inmates or their families can vary based on several factors. If you lost a family member because of a failure to provide medical care in custody, you may have a wrongful death claim. In that case, you could seek compensation for economic and non-economic damages that their suffering and your loss caused.

If the victim is still in custody, you may need to follow the jail’s grievance system before bringing a claim against the facility. To ensure they understand the inmate’s rights and the best course of action to hold the at-fault party liable, most people seek the advice of an experienced attorney.

Hire Our Prison Abuse Attorney to Investigate

Inmates in South Carolina have the right to necessary medical services. If a family member suffered deliberate indifference to serious medical needs while in the custody of the police, our legal team at Shealey Law Firm can help. We are knowledgeable of the consequences of medical neglect in jail, and believe in seeking justice for those that face such neglect.

Contact Shealey Law Firm in Columbia, South Carolina, to learn more about your right to compensation and schedule your free consultation.


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