Prison Just Let Him Die, Brother Says

ALBUQUERQUE (CN) – New Mexico prison staff refused to let an asthmatic inmate use his prescribed inhaler for months, until he turned gray and died, his brother claims in court.
     The late Billy Carter’s brother sued the San Juan County Detention Center, its director and others on Friday in Federal Court.
     Carter claims that prison staff refused to let his brother take his asthma medication for months, even after he had turned gray, coughed blood and became too weak to walk.
     He claims that his brother, his brother’s attorney and other inmates complained “for several months” that the prison’s medical staff was letting Billy Carter waste away by denying him access to his inhaler though he obviously was unable to breathe.
     Prison policy is “to save money” by refusing to take seriously ill inmates to the prison’s contract hospital, delegating medical care “to nonmedical professionals,” and it continued to deny him medical care until he was found dead in his cell, the complaint states.
     Though Billy obviously was dying – losing massive amounts of weight, turning gray and wrinkled, unable to breathe or stand – the prison not only denied him care but threatened other inmates “if they rendered aid to Billy,” according to the lawsuit.
     Billy’s brother claims this treatment, or lack of treatment, continued from the day his brother was admitted, April 21, 2014, until he died on Feb. 13.
     They say the prison even refused to let him use the prescription inhalers his family brought him.
     Fellow inmates used their own personal calls to call his attorney on Feb. 11 and 12 and tell him Billy was dying, and the attorney went to see him on Feb. 12 but was not allowed to see him “because Billy was unable to physically get himself into a wheelchair,” according to the complaint.
     He was found dead the next morning.
     Defendants include prison administrator Thomas Havel, the prison’s contract hospital San Juan Regional Medical Center and Dr. Eric Ketcham.
     Charles Carter seeks punitive damages for wrongful death, negligence, cruel and unusual punishment and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
     He is represented by Mitchel Burns with Tucker, Burns, Yoder & Hatfield, of Farmington.

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