The plaintiff, a New York state prisoner who had been a previous user of alcohol and illegal drugs, but who had been drug-free for thirty years, was diagnosed in prison with Hepatitis C and sought treatment; however, under prison policy, he could only receive treatment if he participated in a ...
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The plaintiff, a New York state prisoner who had been a previous user of alcohol and illegal drugs, but who had been drug-free for thirty years, was diagnosed in prison with Hepatitis C and sought treatment; however, under prison policy, he could only receive treatment if he participated in a program for substance abusers. That program interfered with his schooling and work and, given his long history of not abusing substances, seemed to him an entirely unnecessary requisite to receipt of treatment for his condition. His prison grievance on the matter was denied. He filed suit, pro se, in a New York Supreme Court (the name used in that state for many of its trial courts) against state prison officials, alleging that their failure to provide him needed medical care constituted cruel and unusual punishment. He brought his case under New York Civil Practice Law and Rules Article 78. Plaintiff sought an order (1) vacating the prison officials' prior decision requiring his participation in the substance abuse program as a condition of receiving treatment for Hepatitis C, and (2) directing the officials to begin providing him the needed medical care. The defendants conceded that the plaintiff had been, for at least two years, free of drug and alcohol use, but argued that their policy was reasonable and within the wide discretion courts afford prison administration.
On May 28, 2003, Justice Mary H. Smith ruled in plaintiff's favor, finding that the defendants, in violation of the Eighth Amendment, had shown deliberate indifference to plaintiff's medical condition. In the circumstances, the substance abuse program was medically irrelevant and could not be relied upon as a basis for denying needed medical care, according to Justice Smith. On these facts, she found the deliberate denial of medical attention was arbitrary and capricious. The court ordered the defendants to institute medical treatment of plaintiff. On June 11, 2003, the judge amended her judgment, granting plaintiff's petition. The defendants appealed.
On appeal, the plaintiff had private counsel. In a summary order issued on July 5, 2005, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court, stating that under the circumstances the denial of medical treatment to the prisoner pursuant to the appellants' medical treatment policy constituted deliberate indifference to his medical condition in violation of the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment. Domenech v. Goord, 797 N.Y.S.2d 313 (App. Div. 2005) (Judge Sondra M. Miller).
We have no information showing further activity in the case; however, in October 2005, the state's correctional officials issued revisions to their policies to ensure that "programmatic needs" for alcohol and substance abuse treatment do not interfere with individuals' needs for Hepatitis C treatment. Copies of the revisions are with this case's documents in the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse database.
Other cases in the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse database addressing similar claims in New York state and federal courts include PC-NY-51, -53, and -55.Mike Fagan - 05/01/2008