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An appeals court orders Arizona to add medical staff at prisons

A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel in Phoenix recently issued a ruling in the prison inmate health care case that had originally been settled with the state of Arizona back in 2014.

On Dec. 20, they announced that they'd overturned a federal magistrate's prior ruling that the Department of Corrections (DOC) wasn't required to increase staffing necessary to adequately provide inmates with necessary medical care. The DOC will now be required to develop a plan for how to better staff its facilities so that gaps in their care are reduced.

Up until the panel's ruling, an attorney for the inmates had argued that there continued to be too few trained staff members necessary to take care of all the convicts' medical needs across Arizona's 10 state-run prisons.

In 2012, multiple inmates had filed lawsuits chronicling how these facilities didn't offer even the most basic level of mental health or medical care. Even if they did, then staffing was so short that they didn't get the attention that they deserved.

Many inmates argued that their medical providers failed to diagnose their cancer. By the time some received their diagnoses, necessary treatment was withheld from them. Some were even told that their only option was to go back to their jail cells and pray for a cure.

In one case, an inmate with prostate cancer was forced to wait two years before he was allowed to have a biopsy performed on him. Another said that a tumor on his liver had metastasized so much that it caused his stomach to become noticeably distended.

The state was ultimately allowed to settle the cases brought by inmates in 2014 without ever having to admit that they'd provided inadequate care. Since then, little had been done to change the system to ensure other inmates didn't face the same plight. Now with the appellate court's latest ruling, DOC will be forced to increase staffing to better care for their needs so delayed diagnoses are minimized.

Studies have shown that most patients can go on to live a long life if their cancer is detected early on and treated aggressively. Those who are misdiagnosed have a much smaller chance of survival. A failure to diagnose attorney who has an inside understanding of the medical system can advise you of your right to recover compensation from a doctor who was negligent in evaluating or treating you.

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