Bone fractures

Legal Pearl: Inmate Sues Doctor Over Injured Finger

  • A 29-year-old inmate in a correctional center fell while in the recreation yard on November 19, 2016 and landed on his hand, hearing a loud popping sound. He immediately felt severe pain and his hand began swelling and bruising. He rushed to the correctional center’s medical unit. The nurse on duty contacted the on-call physician for guidance. The physician advised the nurse to give the patient an ice pack and Motrin, and to schedule him for radiography on November 21, when the radiography technician would be back at work.

    On November 21, the patient had radiographs taken of his hand. The radiology report stated: “mildly displaced intra articular fracture of the dorsal base of the ring finger proximal phalanx (right hand) and mild proximal and ulnar displacement of the fracture fragment – joint spaces are preserved, soft tissues intact.”

    On November 25 the patient submitted a complaint stating that he believed that he broke his hand on November 19 and yet had still not had medical treatment. On November 30, the physician had the nurse put a splint on his hand. It wasn’t until March 2 that the patient was taken to see an orthopedic physician. The orthopedist said that because his hand was not stabilized soon after it was broken it required surgery, and even with surgery his hand might be permanently damaged. The patient sued the doctor, nurse, and correctional health services company which employed them.

    Was The Doctor negligent?

    (Discussion on next page)

    Ann W. Latner, JD, is a freelance writer and attorney based in New York. She was formerly the director of periodicals at the American Pharmacists Association and editor of Pharmacy Times.