HEADLINE: Jail operator wins medical care lawsuit, draws rebuke from judge
BODY: A federal judge in Pennsylvania sympathized with some of the problems an HIV-positive inmate encountered in obtaining adequate medical care, but said the troubles did not rise to a violation of his constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment.
Background: Maxcell Clark Jr., who has HIV and hepatitis C, filed suit on his own behalf against Delaware County Prison, operated by the Wackenhut Corrections Corp. in the suburbs outside Philadelphia.
Clark gave the court a 180-paragraph list of complaints about the quality of medical care he received between May 1997 and June 1999. Among the more significant problems noted were Wackenhut's three-week delay in letting him see a physician, its initial refusal to provide milk rather than water with his medications so the pills wouldn't be taken on an empty stomach, and a denial of over-the-counter remedies for headaches, fevers, colds and back pain.
In addition, Clark said a nurse treated his oral thrush, an opportunistic infection associated with AIDS, by using an alcohol swab rather than the medication he said had been prescribed by his physician.
Ruling: In dismissing the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Thomas N. O'Neill Jr., said he recognized "the serious nature of plaintiff's condition" and did not condone the actions attributed to Wackenhut personnel. However, most of the inmate's allegations centered on differences of opinion about the proper course of treatment. The defendants considered and acted upon most of the inmate's requests, even if he was not satisfied with the responses. Finally, there was no evidence the inmate's health was impaired by the defendant's actions. As a result, he could not make a prima facie case that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.