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Prisoner Health Care: Death in a Boston Jail

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. | Last updated on

While fighting deportation to the Dominican Republic, Pedro Tavarez was held in the Suffolk County House of Correction, where he died in October 2009 when an untreated sepsis infection caused a heart attack.

Filing suit in a federal court in Boston this week, his daughter is alleging that the prison was grossly negligent, committed malpractice, and violated her father's civil rights.

In short, she claims that the jail did not uphold its duty with respect to prisoner health care.

Under current jurisprudence, prisons in the U.S. must provide necessary and adequate medical care or otherwise risk violating the 8th Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

In order to assert a valid civil rights claim alleging inadequate prisoner health care, the Supreme Court has said that a prisoner must show that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs.

Mere medical malpractice is not sufficient.

Whether the jail was deliberately indifferent towards the medical needs of Pedro Tavarez is up for debate.

Believing that he had a cold, he was taken to the prison infirmary, where the Boston Globe reports that he stayed for 2 days before being taken to a hospital.

It's unclear exactly what occurred during his infirmary stay, but the paper notes that a federal report has said that the prison waited too long to take Tavarez to the hospital.

Even if the daughter of Pedro Tavarez is unable to prove inadequate prisoner health care, the above events may still be enough to show that the prison was grossly negligent or committed medical malpractice. With the federal report on the table, this appears to be highly likely.

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