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Seventh Circuit: Nurse’s Deliberate Indifference to Prisoner’s Pain Negates Summary Judgment Grant

Wisconsin prisoner Anthony Machicote underwent surgery to remove damaged bone, tissue and cartilage in his ankle after he suffered an injury while playing basketball at New Lisbon Correctional Institution (NLCI). The surgeon supplied Machicote with oxycodone and said he would be in “extreme pain” when it wore off. He recommended narcotic-strength painkillers every six hours.

Upon returning to NLCI, Dr. Marie Herweijer and nurse Kimberly Stecker reviewed Machicote’s discharge instructions. Herweijer prescribed Tylenol 3 every six hours. Stecker, however, allegedly forced Machicote to take the first dose ahead of schedule despite his protests that he would suffer extreme pain when the medication wore off. She merely shrugged her shoulders and said she “did not care” and that he would have to “deal with the pain.”

Sticker further refused to give the next dosage six hours later, forcing Machicote to wait nine hours. She then took action to have the dosage schedule changed because she did not want to administer it every six hours. The prescription was changed to coincide with the prison’s normal distribution schedule, which was at 6 a.m., 12 p.m., 4 p.m., and 8 p.m. daily. Stecker also refused to take action in the face of Machicote’s protestations of burning pain and complaints by a friend who called the prison about his care.

Machicote filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The district court denied his requests for an attorney because he had not tried to find one on his own. It subsequently granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, finding Machicote failed to present evidence that any of the defendants were personally involved in his care.

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit agreed with the district court as to all defendants except Stecker. It pointed to her defiance of the medication order and her indifference to whether Machicote would suffer pain. It noted that deliberate indifference can be found where the delay of medication for hours causes needless suffering.

Next, a jury could find that Stecker had the medication schedule changed simply because she did not want to administer it every six hours. Finally, Stecker’s failure to persist in treatment that was ineffective without consulting a doctor could be found as ignoring Machicote’s serious medical condition.

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Related legal case

Machicote v. Roethlisberger