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Ohio Federal Court Dismisses Suit Against Doctor Over Prisoner’s Suicide

On September 4, 2015, an Ohio federal district court dismissed a lawsuit brought against a former prison doctor following the suicide of a prisoner under his care.

Ohio prisoner Gregory Stamper was in extreme pain due to damage to his nervous system. Dr. Myron Lyle Shank, the physician responsible for Stamper’s medical care, refused to prescribe pain medication. Stamper committed suicide on June 1, 2011 at the Allen Correctional Institution, and the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, a Cincinnati-based prisoners’ rights group, filed a lawsuit alleging the failure to treat his severe pain caused him to take his life.

Federal judge Edmund A. Sargus, Jr. ruled that Dr. Shank’s treatment of Stamper was not deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs because the doctor had determined the medication Stamper was using was ineffective and Stamper had misused the medication.

A review by prison officials conducted after Stamper’s suicide concluded that Dr. Shank had improperly canceled medication and treatment of patients without first examining them, and had failed to conduct proper follow-ups of the patients he did see.

A previous investigation by the Ohio State Medical Board resulted in a citation issued on January 12, 2011, which stated Shank had inappropriately continued to prescribe narcotics to patients who were not compliant with clinical instructions, as treatment for fibromyalgia and to patients who exhibited drug-seeking behavior. He also was charged with inappropriately prescribing controlled stimulants despite the presence of possible contraindications and inappropriately prescribing sedatives to a patient with sleep apnea. Finally, the citation said he failed to follow up on a needle biopsy performed for possible malignancy and kept incomplete, often illegible and/or unprofessional medical charts.

On December 14, 2011, the State Medical Board ordered Shank’s license suspended, but stayed the suspension and placed him on probation for a minimum of three years. The term of probation ended on June 10, 2015.

The federal district court’s dismissal of the lawsuit against Shank related to Stamper’s suicide is currently on appeal. See: Brookes v. Shank, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Ohio), Case No. 2:13-cv-00516-EAS-NMK. PLN has previously reported on Dr. Shank’s misconduct. [See: PLN, Mar. 2012, p.41]. 

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Related legal case

Brookes v. Shank