A man is suing Idaho’s prison health care contractor, Corizon Health, allegedly for not providing medical care, which resulted in his leg being amputated.
Gary L. Merchant, 65, said in his lawsuit that he was forced to swallow a razor blade in order to get the prison’s medical staff to take him to a hospital — where he was treated for a flesh-eating infection in his leg.
According to the lawsuit, Merchant has Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory disease of the digestive tract that can result in serious complications if left untreated. The inmate also had a history of congestive heart failure and, according to Merchant, the prison staff did not provide him with proper treatment.
In January 2016, Merchant developed a severe infection in his left leg. The medical staff misdiagnosed the condition and prescribed a blood thinner and diuretic to alleviate the swelling. However, when the infection worsened, the inmate made over a dozen requests for medical attention. The Corizon Health staff still refused to take him to a hospital, prompting Merchant to swallow a pencil sharpener blade and forcing the staff to take him to St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center.
On Feb. 7, 2017, Merchant was admitted to the critical care unit where he was diagnosed with severe sepsis and septic shock accompanied by vomiting and acute abdominal pain. The surgeons quickly operated on his leg to remove the dead tissue but, unfortunately, it was too late. His leg had to be removed above the knee. Doctors also had to perform a colostomy to remove the blade, which had lodged in a twisted intestine — a complication of Crohn’s disease.
Merchant also alleges the infection caused a stroke, encephalopathy, lung and kidney failure and terrible pain in his leg, along with other medical problems. The inmate, who is now back in prison, still continues to have medical issues. His prosthetic leg, which was given to him seven months after his operation, was not fitted properly so he now needs to use a wheelchair, his lawyer Jason Monteleone said.
Merchant now seeks a jury trial for claims that Corizon, the Idaho Department of Correction and others associated with prison health care violated his civil rights, showed medical malpractice, negligence and failed to hire qualified health care staff.
“The initial medical opinion that’s been obtained demonstrates not just reckless behavior but deliberate indifference,” Monteleone said. “I do a lot of correctional medical cases, and I’ve not seen one this bad.”
Merchant was convicted in Canyon County for a DUI felony in 2009 and again in 2014. He is sentenced to prison until at least 2021.
As for Corizon Health, this isn’t the first time it has been accused of negligence.
In 2012, a report, which came as part of a decade-old inmate lawsuit, deemed Corizon’s care at Idaho State Correctional Institution was “cruel and unusual” — an allegation that Corizon rejected.
A similar lawsuit filed in October stated Corizon medical staff at a Kansas prison did not treat an inmate for a fungal infection which was “eating his brain” and ultimately killed him.
In fact, the health care group is facing over 660 lawsuits in five years, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Corizon has paid millions of dollars to settle lawsuits filed by prisoners and their families.
Banner/Thumbnail credit: REUTERS, Jorge Cabrera