(CN) - Two prison doctors may be liable for allegedly using Tylenol to treat an inmate who says his knee collapsed whenever he put weight on it for over a year, a federal judge ruled.
While serving time at the Stateville Correctional Center in Illinois in June 2009, Hector LaBoy injured his knee while playing basketball. He says the pain of the accident was so great that he needed a wheelchair to get off the court.
The emergency room physician, Dr. Parthasarathi Ghosh, prescribed Tylenol and provided with crutches, according to LaBoy's pro-se complaint. Five days later, the X-ray results were allegedly "negative (presumably for a broken bone)."
But LaBoy continued to report pain, allegedly telling the medical staff that his knee was "collapsing" whenever he put weight on it. Dr. Liping Zhang gave LaBoy acetaminophen, the generic name for Tylenol, and took away his crutches in July, according to the complaint.
When LaBoy returned to the clinic in September and told Zhang that walking still caused his knee to collapse, Zhang allegedly became "hostile" and scolded LaBoy, saying that "the injury was his fault, before muttering in a foreign language plaintiff did not understand," according to the court's summary.
As he was climbing down from his top bunk in January 2010, LaBoy's leg allegedly gave out and he fell to the floor.
LaBoy finally underwent an MRI in June 2010 after his wife complained to the prison about its quality of medical care, according to the complaint. The MRI allegedly showed that LaBoy had a chronic ACL tear and a torn lateral meniscus, requiring surgery to repair.
The surgery was performed in November 2010, almost a year and a half after his initial injury, LaBoy said.
The inmate's ensuing lawsuit claims that Ghosh and Zhang violated his constitutional rights by acting with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs.
U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve refused to dismiss the case last week, finding that "the delay of a year and five months for a knee injury that did not improve could be viewed as a substantial departure from professional judgment."
"Plaintiff alleges that he endured crippling pain, that he was unable to walk on the injured leg, and that his condition did not improve over the passage of weeks and months; the injury was grave enough ultimately to require surgery," St. Eve wrote.
"The fact that the prisoner has received some medical treatment does not necessarily defeat his claim; deliberate indifference to a serious medical need can be manifested by 'blatantly inappropriate' treatment," she added (emphasis in original).
LaBoy will face a high threshold in pursuing his claim, however, given that "neither negligence nor medical malpractice amounts to deliberate indifference," according to the 10-page decision.