A federal lawsuit has been filed against a medical care provider for the wrongful death of a Minnesota prisoner in 2010, according to the Star Tribune. The Minnesota Department of Corrections is also a defendant in the lawsuit.
The suit alleges that a doctor for Tennessee-based Corizon Inc. initially failed to order an ambulance when Xavius Scullark-Johnson, a prisoner at the prison in Rush City, Minn., began suffering seizures on a late June night two years ago. In addition, it alleges that at least three nurses and four prison officers failed to care adequately for Scullark-Johnson while he suffered several seizures in a four-to-five-hour period, according to the Tribune.
A Tribune investigation, published in November, found that since 2000, “at least nine state prisoners — including Scullark-Johnson — have died after medical care was denied or delayed and another 21 suffered serious or critical injury.”
“Defendants left Mr. Scullark-Johnson lying in his cell by himself after he had suffered numerous seizures, was disoriented, unable to control his bodily functions and had injured himself from seizures,” Jordan Kushner, the plaintiff’s attorney, told the Tribune.
Sharyn Barney, the doctor who was on call the night Scullark-Johnson died, was originally informed by a corrections lieutenant that the inmate had at least three seizures., His cellmate reported that he had suffered at least six to seven seizures, according to the Tribune. According to court records obtained by the Tribune, Barney told the lieutenant to let Scullark-Johnson sleep rather than call for an ambulance.
“At least nine state prisoners-including Scullark-Johnson-have died after medical care was denied or delayed …”
In a statement given to the state’s Department of Corrections investigators after the incident, Barney said she was not provided with enough information from prison officers about Scullark-Johnson’s condition when she decided to not call an ambulance right away.
According to records obtained by the Tribune, the overnight corrections officers responsible for Scullark-Johnson’s care also failed to document his deteriorating condition, but did remove his cellmate after the cellmate repeatedly called for an ambulance.
Barney agreed to call an ambulance an hour after she first heard about Scullark-Johnson’s seizures, but a prison nurse, citing “protocols,” turned it away when it arrived. Only when the nurse returned an hour later to find Scullark-Johnson lying facedown and unresponsive in his cell was the ambulance crew called again. He was taken to a hospital in Wyoming, declared brain dead that night and taken off life support the following morning, according to the Tribune.
Corizon officials made no comment to the Tribune, because of pending litigation. But, the lawsuit raises questions about the quality of medical care inmates in Minnesota receive.
Still, prison officials told the Tribune that state prisoners “receive the ‘community standard’ of medical care required by law — similar to the level of care by most Minnesotans.”
Corizon, a private medical care contractor, has a $28 million contract to provide medical care to the state’s 9,200 prisoners.