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Jail Doctor Wins Lawsuit Over Substitution of Pain Medication

The plaintiff broke his hand in jail and was prescribed Darvocet for pain; a jail doctor directed that it be withheld to see if over-the-counter medications would control the pain, since many jail inmates including the plaintiff have substance abuse histories.

The defendants argued that the plaintiff's desire for Darvocet rather than Tylenol was not a serious medical need. Without deciding the question, the court notes that the prescription of Darvocet could be viewed as indicating a doctor's belief that that treatment was necessary for the plaintiff's pain, and the plaintiff did complain of pain.

The defendant doctor's decision to countermand the original prescription "was based on her medical judgment, and her reasonable concern about providing narcotics to jail inmates." (325) Absent a reason to believe that anything other than medical judgment was at issue, she is entitled to summary judgment. At 325:

Not every physician will treat every ailment in exactly the same manner. That does not mean that one of the physicians must be acting with deliberate indifference to the patient's needs. That is particularly true when one of the physicians is more familiar with the jail or prison environment, and therefore more sensitive to the need to restrict narcotics use.

In addition, the jail doctor did not withhold all medication, but only one medication, and the plaintiff did not complain of pain when he saw the doctor afterward. See: Douglas v. Stanwick, 93 F.Supp.2d 320 (W.D.N.Y. 2000).

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Related legal case

Douglas v. Stanwick