CHICAGO (CN) – A federal judge refused to dismiss claims that a paraplegic man spent a two-month jail stint soaked in his own feces because guards would not provide enemas.
Ronald Buefort is a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair and is unable to control his bowel functions. He requires six catheters a day to drain his bladder and strictly scheduled enemas to evacuate his colon so he may avoid accidental defecation.
Sheriff’s officers arrested Buefort in the courtroom of Cook County Judge Kipperman in February 2010, and they confiscated the backpack full of supplies that Buefort carries with him at all times, according to the complaint.
Buefort says he described his medical condition while he was being processed at the Cook County Jail, but that he had already urinated on himself by the time he reached a cell. He says the jail provided him with one catheter and no enemas.
The next day, Buefort allegedly spoke to a doctor about his medical needs, and she said that the enemas were on order. But Buefort says he never received any enemas, despite repeated pleas for the help of medical staff.
Buefort stopped eating for up to five days to avoid accidental defecation, but eventually ate and defecated on himself, according to the complaint.
Since the jail issued just one uniform per week, he says he had to wash himself and his clothes in the shower.
During Buefort’s 51-day incarceration, the jail never provided him with enemas and gave him just one catheter per day, according to the complaint. He claims he defecated on himself approximately seven times and was denied clean clothes on each occasion.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Robert Gettlemen refused to dismiss Buefort’s ensuing lawsuit against Sheriff Tom Dart and Cook County.
The defendants argued that Buefort’s claims had already been litigated and settled in a class action involving wheelchair-bound Cook County Jail inmates who were denied appropriate toilet and shower facilities.
But Gettleman said Buefort’s claims differed from that case.
Buefort “does not claim that he was denied access to the showers or toilets; indeed he alleges that he was forced to use the showers to clean himself and his clothes,” the ruling states. “His claim that he was denied necessary medical equipment does not depend on the fact that he was bound to a wheelchair, but instead depends on a medical condition that caused an inability to control his bladder and bowel functions.”
“In that regard his complaint is no different than any inmate alleging that he was denied necessary medication,” Gettlemen concluded. “Plaintiff’s claim is thus akin to a diabetic inmate’s claim that the Jail refused to supply insulin or the claim of an inmate with pneumonia that the Jail refused to supply antibiotics. The deliberate refusal to provide adequate medical treatment is actionable regardless of disability and has little or nothing to do with discrimination under the ADA.”