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Inmate Death Shows Prison Health Care Provider Was Negligent And May Be Liable

Steve Wagner

There are far too many instances where prisoners’ lives are changed forever or die as a result of negligent medical care while incarcerated. Earlier this year, news of the Seventh Circuit ruled 6-4 that an Indiana prison healthcare provider may have been negligent and now liable for allowing an inmate, Nicholas Glisson, die in just four short weeks of entering the Indiana state prison system for an eight year sentence. The 50-year-old inmate relied on a feeding tube and allegedly died of starvation and renal failure in 2010. His case is gaining momentum for review again.

Glisson had complicated medical needs as a result of laryngeal cancer. He was serving a felony drug charge sentence and convicted for transferring two Oxycontin pills to an informant. At sentencing, doctors urged the judge to place Glisson on house arrest, saying that he was unlikely to survive incarceration. According to court records, the judge disregarded these warnings.

Family says Glisson was nervous to start his sentence after his cancer treatments and surgery left him weak and without several facial features making it difficult for him to speak and eat. Radiation treatment also left his neck too weak to support his head, so he needed a brace that would never show up at the prison, to hold his head up so he could breathe. Despite his extensive medical needs, no prison medical staff reviewed his case or evaluated him until 24 days after his arrival.


Often, prison inmates who are ill suffer, are neglected, and refused appropriate medical treatment (for both physical and mental health). There are a large number of prison deaths each year that happen as a result of maltreatment similar to Glisson’s.

“Had a physician looked at something resembling a complete chart, he would have seen that Glisson had no history of psychosis, and he might have considered, as the post-mortem experts did, the more obvious possibility that lack of oxygen and food was affecting Glisson’s mental performance,” U.S. Circuit Judge Diane Wood said, writing for the en banc Seventh Circuit’s 6-4 majority.

An inmate who is the victim of wrongful death or 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) 204-8440for your FREE consultation.


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