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Prisoner Dies, Fifteen Hospitalized During Putnamville Flu Outbreak

Steve Wagner

A recent flu outbreak at Putnamville Correctional facility in western Indiana has sickened several dozen inmates, with one losing his life and fifteen others currently in a Terre Haute hospital. Two of the hospitalized individuals are in the intensive care unit. Those hospitalized had serious symptoms, such as trouble breathing and coughing up blood. The deceased was said to have been “in fragile condition” prior to becoming ill, and it is believed that the virus contributed to his death. In addition to the ill who are incarcerated, five staff members have come down with the illness, specified as the H1N1 strain of the influenza virus.

Officials say that inmates started getting very sick quickly beginning on Friday, and that some exhibited serious symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Indiana Department of Health were both called in for assistance. The prison is currently taking multiple steps to protect the remaining population, including the provision of sanitizers and face masks to prisoners and the replacement of over one hundred air filters. Inmates who refused a flu shot earlier in the year have been offered another opportunity to receive one.

Though there has been no allegation of wrongdoing, there are far too many instances where prisoners’ lives are changed forever or die as a result of negligent medical care while incarcerated. In many of these cases, the initial illness or injury is a common and easily treated ailment. There are some options that prisoners or their families may have if they are ill and not receiving appropriate treatment. The Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights suggests the following:

  1. If the incarcerated individual has a doctor outside of the correctional facility, you can him or her to communicate directly with correctional health care providers. Sometimes the outside doctors are even allowed to see their patients inside.
  2. Try to contact the healthcare providers at the correctional facility directly.
  3. Use Indiana’s Department of Corrections website to locate contact information for the medical director and contact their office for assistance.
  4. Review the ACLU National Prison Project’s “Know Your Rights: Medical, Dental, and Mental Health Care.”

An inmate who is the victim of medical malpractice (or his or her family in the case of death) has the right to justice and should not suffer in silence. Across the country, states and facilities have settled out of court for hundreds of thousands of dollars, precisely because they knew they were negligent under the law or that they had violated an inmate’s civil rights.

At Wagner Reese, we understand that prisoners can be very vulnerable to those who care for them as they repay their debt to society, and we know all inmates have a constitutional right to appropriate medical care. If you have lost a family member as a result of negligent medical care inside a prison, we can help you to ensure your family does not have to suffer financial burdens while you grieve and mourn your loved one. Talking to our experienced attorneys can be the beginning of finding justice for your family. Call our jail and prison death lawyers at (888) 204-8440 for your FREE consultation.


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