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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Ind. Decisions - "Transgender inmate's lawsuit raises questions on prison health care"

That is the headline to a Indianapolis Star story today reported by Kristine Guerra. Some quotes from late into the long story:

[Christa Allen] filed her medical malpractice complaint in March 2009 against doctors Richard Hinchman, Richard Tanner and Jeffery Smith, who treated her during her incarceration at Rockville and at the Indiana Women's Prison, where she was later transferred. A review panel decided the doctors did not breach their standard of care.

Allen then filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the three doctors in January 2012 in Marion Superior Court. She asked for unspecified monetary damages.

The case was dismissed because Allen failed to provide an expert testimony to rebut the review panel's opinion. More significantly, the court ruled that physicians who provide care to prisoners should follow a "different, lower standard of care," according to documents.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled otherwise. In their Nov. 10 opinion, the appellate judges acknowledged that correctional doctors face budgetary and security concerns that others practicing outside prison don't. But such concerns about the use of a stent or a vibrator, they said, are nebulous. * * *

The doctors on Dec. 9 filed a petition asking the appellate judges to rehear the case. No decision has yet been announced.

ILB: Here is the 19-page, Nov. 10, 2014 Court of Appeals opinion in Allen v. Hinchman, et al. Judge Baker writes:
In this case, we are asked to determine whether the standard of care for doctors treating incarcerated persons is a different, lower standard of care than that applied to their professional counterparts practicing outside prison walls. We find that it is not. The standard of care for doctors practicing in Indiana prisons is no different than the standard of care for doctors practicing within the general population.

Christa Allen appeals the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of appellees-defendants Doctors Richard Hinchman, Richard Tanner, and Jeffrey Smith (collectively, the Doctors) regarding her medical malpractice claim based on the treatment provided by the Doctors during her incarceration. Allen argues that the trial court erred when it determined that physicians who provide medical care to incarcerated persons are subject to a different, lower standard of care and found that her tendered expert, Dr. Wilson, was unqualified to testify because he was unfamiliar with the standard of care for physicians practicing in prisons. Allen asserts that Dr. Wilson was qualified to testify and maintains that there is a question of fact as to whether allowing her the use of a vaginal stent was medically necessary. Allen also argues that the trial court erred when it denied her motion to amend her complaint to allege a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Finding that Dr. Wilson was qualified to testify, we conclude that summary judgment was inappropriate. However, we affirm the trial court’s decision to deny Allen’s request to amend her complaint, as her Eighth Amendment claim was barred by the relevant statute of limitations.

From p. 16 of the opinion:
[W]e recognize that medical care in the DOC involves additional considerations not present in a hospital or general care facility. However, we cannot find that physicians practicing in prisons may deviate from the standard of care without reasonable, articulable concerns. In short, we do not find that physicians practicing in prisons may determine the standard of care based on the circumstances and concerns facing them with regard to individual patients, especially when such concerns remain vague and nebulous. To do so would be to empower prison physicians to determine for themselves what standard of care should apply based on each individual case, a practice we will not endorse.
Here is the docket in the case. The last action as of this morning: Appellant Allen's motion for an extension of time to file a response to Appelles' petition for rehearing was denied Jan. 12, 2015.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 13, 2015 09:31 AM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions