All healthcare providers should have an understanding of the legal basis of their practice. However, those in a correctional setting have an added need and obligation to understand constitutional law.
The History of Constitutional Law in Correctional Facilities
The term “Section 1983 case” used to describe a legal claim may seem to suggest that this claim was created in 1983. However, this case is not denoted by a year but by a section of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1871. This act was originally created to protect those who were being harassed by the Ku Klux Klan following the Civil War. This section specifies how their constitutionally protected rights were violated.
Section 1983 claims can include false arrest, unreasonable searches, equal protection, or use of excessive force. For Correctional Healthcare practice, Section 1983 claims involve abridgment of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution as it relates to healthcare. In the case of Estelle vs. Gamble, denial of adequate medical care to prisoners constituted cruel and unusual punishment as was protected against by the 8th Amendment to the Constitution.
What is a Section 1983 Case?
At its core, a Section 1983 case is a civil rights case. Therefore, instead of determining if the standard for medical care was provided, a Section 1983 case seeks to identify primary determinants of deliberate indifference. In plain language, a plaintiff must prove that there was a staff member who knew about the seriousness of the issue and that they deliberately failed to provide the required treatment.
Furthermore, they must prove that the failure to treat caused the inmate unneeded pain, suffering or some similar harm.
How does this apply to me?
Lorry Schoenly, PhD, RN, CCHP, author of The Correctional Nurse Manifesto, shares that as healthcare professionals, we are bound by our licensure and our ethical codes to care for injured, ill and suffering individuals – no matter their position in society. We provide care based on need, not merit. Providing medical care in a correctional setting can be difficult, but vital.
Need More Help?
Don’t go it alone. OmniSure is here to give professional advice on-demand and address your risks prior to any claims or lawsuits. Contact us today to begin your risk assessment.