by Mike Mosedale, Minnesota Lawyer
Among the peculiar ironies about the intersection of medicine, public policy and the law in contemporary American life, not many are weirder than the fact that only one segment of the nation’s population –and a largely reviled one, at that — enjoys a constitutionally-protected right to health care: the approximately 2.2 million people incarcerated in the nation’s prisons and jails
True, “enjoys” probably isn’t the best descriptor of how inmates feel about their unusual constitutional status – at least not judging by the volume of correctional health care-related lawsuits against prisons and, increasingly, their medical services contractors. Corizon – the largest of those companies and, until recently, Minnesota’s provider – has been sued over 1,300 times in the past five years.
All that litigation is made possible by the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding that the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment applies when inmates can establish “deliberate indifference” to a serious medical need, a standard established by the landmark 1976 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Estelle v. Gamble. In subsequent cases, the high court expanded the standard to cases involving future medical harms (second hand smoke from his five pack-a-day cellmate) and failure to ...