Area of Law:
Civil Rights 42 USC 1983
6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
Affirmed dismissal of case by lower court
Plaintiff Simpson was an elderly prisoner at G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility. He alleged to have suffered from chronic hypertension, a serious kidney disorder, and an enlarged prostate, and that he took medication to control his blood pressure. As a result of these disorders and his medication, Plaintiff urinated frequently, as often as three to four times an hour. This biological peculiarity caused him great difficulty during head count, a daily ritual which Plaintiff alleges often took more than an hour to complete.
Plaintiff alleged that he once had a medical “detail,” or permit, to use the bathroom during count, but that under a new prison policy instituted by the warden, such details were no longer given. He alleged to have suffered great pain from the effort to retain his urine, and on several occasions was forced to urinate on himself during count.
Plaintiff filed a prisoner’s grievance complaining of this state of affairs, which was referred to one of the prison doctors as an allegation of inadequate medical care. The physician reviewed and denied the grievance, after offering Simpson a urinal bottle and the suggestion that he use the bathroom before and after count. The Court of Appeals found no conceivable set of facts that could show that the physician was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff’s medical needs.
Plaintiff’s grievance — and the substance of his complaint in this action — was not inadequate medical care but rather inhumane application of prison policy. He complained in essence that the policy, or the individuals enforcing it, failed to accommodate to his medically caused need for bathroom access or some reasonable alternative.
The Court stated that if the physician had the power or authority to grant an exemption to the warden’s policies, then the doctor’s offer of a urinal would seemingly have resolved Plaintiff’s grievance. If, as implied by Plaintiff’s characterization of the physician’s offer as a “sham,” the physician could not grant an exemption, then Plaintiff sued the wrong official. Either way, the Court held that the physician could not have been deliberately indifferent.
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