Question regarding prisoners' right to refuse meds

  1. Just a quick question--is it true that prisoners, whether in prisons or jails, do NOT have the same right to refuse meds or treatments that inpatients (non-incarcerated, everyday patients) have? I have heard this, but can't find any literature to cite.

    I do know that my brother in law, very elderly, had a stroke while in prison. He was allowed to go home to be cared for by his wife. He was paralyzed and bedridden; could not speak or walk. Howver, he refused his meds, and his wife mentioned this when a follow-up call was made to their home to see how he was doing. Back to prison he went, in an unmarked car, accompanied by big, armed men who appeared to be bounty hunters. Kind of scary!

    Thank you, all!
    Last edit by stevierae on Jul 2, '04
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  2. 20 Comments

  3. by   GrkGrl
    I worked in Corrections in MA, and yes inmates have the right to refuse medications just like everybody else. There is of course documentation that goes along with this.
  4. by   LoriRN911
    Quote from GrkGrl
    I worked in Corrections in MA, and yes inmates have the right to refuse medications just like everybody else. There is of course documentation that goes along with this.

    Yes, the inmate can refuse any and all medical treatments or meds if he wants while incarcerated. However GrkGrl,we did have one inmate that went home because he was sick (dying) and the family didn't abide by the treatment (weather it was because he refused or someother reason) but he returned to our facility.Only because we, as his healthcare provider, were responsible for him because he was still our inmate (I think he went out on the braclet to go home to die). If he dies on the outside while our property and not recieving proper healthcare his family can sue us. This came from our DON.
  5. by   stevierae
    Was this right--that is, the right to refuse meds or treatments--only very recently granted? I ask because I remember having a discussion with an ACLU attorney in 1999, and telling him that any patient had the right to refuse any treatment or medication.

    His respnse was, "Unfortunately, prisoners don't enjoy the same rights that the rest of us take for granted, and that's one example. People who are incarcerated DO NOT have the right to refuse medications or treatments. However, we are working to change that."
  6. by   Blackcat99
    When I worked corrections in 1995 the inmates always had the right to refuse all medications and any other medical treatments. When diabetics refused insulin we had to fill out paperwork stating that the inmate had refused it and the possible adverse reactions that might occur due to his refusal.
  7. by   Blackcat99
    :chuckle Oops and the inmate had to sign this form also. If he refused to sign the form then the officer and the nurse had to both sign stating that the inmate refused to sign the form.
  8. by   Destinystar
    do ya think that maybe just maybe your bil wife bit off more than she could chew and could not cope with taking care of her husband (i couldnt blame her it is a heck of a lot of work for anyone much less an elderly person) and she had to turn him back over to the prison? some would find it politically incorrect to admit to others that they were just plain unable to care for their husbandand maybe she kind of came up with a story that was socially acceptable? i think you have a feeling as well that there might be something to the story and that is what led to your post. hope you solve this mystery
    Quote from stevierae
    just a quick question--is it true that prisoners, whether in prisons or jails, do not have the same right to refuse meds or treatments that inpatients (non-incarcerated, everyday patients) have? i have heard this, but can't find any literature to cite.

    i do know that my brother in law, very elderly, had a stroke while in prison. he was allowed to go home to be cared for by his wife. he was paralyzed and bedridden; could not speak or walk. howver, he refused his meds, and his wife mentioned this when a follow-up call was made to their home to see how he was doing. back to prison he went, in an unmarked car, accompanied by big, armed men who appeared to be bounty hunters. kind of scary!

    thank you, all!
  9. by   nurseT
    I'm new to corrections, but I have not read or been told that inmates cannot refuse. We have a form that the inmate has to sign. I recently had an inmate who wanted to stop his BP meds because he "was feeling better". I handled it the usual way and advised him of the risks involved and reminded him he would be making an educated choice and suffer the consequences. I documented the conversation also. One other occasion, we had a new inmate who was brought in with a deep laceration to his lt forearm that he had inflicted on himself. He refused TX at the scene(arrest). He also refused my TX. I told him very sternly that" he was now my responsibility and he would be getting stitches." He was a certifiable nut. So that changed all the rules on rights as far as I was concerned.
  10. by   stevierae
    Quote from destinystar
    do ya think that maybe just maybe your bil wife bit off more than she could chew and could not cope with taking care of her husband (i couldnt blame her it is a heck of a lot of work for anyone much less an elderly person) and she had to turn him back over to the prison? some would find it politically incorrect to admit to others that they were just plain unable to care for their husbandand maybe she kind of came up with a story that was socially acceptable? i think you have a feeling as well that there might be something to the story and that is what led to your post. hope you solve this mystery
    no, actually i am a legal nurse consultant, and a colleague recently had a case cross his desk similar to the one i encountered in 1999. i told him about what the aclu attorney told me in 1999, and he stubbornly insisted that he was certain that prisoners had the same rights as people not incarcerated did. according to the feedback i am getting here, he is correct, so i am not certain why my aclu attorney client thought otherwise, but he did not proceed with the case on behalf of the prisoner in 1999.

    regarding my brother-in-law and his wife--oh, yes--she was in worse health then he was--they were both in their '70s, and frail--i am not certain why her husband was ever allowed to come home. i am assuming it was to allow him to die at home, but he was confused and would lash out at her physically when she tried to give him his meds, and he was an insulin dependent diabetic in addition to his other medical problems post-stroke.

    he could not speak, or at least he could not speak in a way that you could understand him. his wife, i think, was not exactly thrilled to have him home--in fact, he was physically and emotionally abusive to her before he was incarcerated and before his stroke, so i am sure having him gone was a relief to her. i saw the people come to get him, though, when we were there visiting, and that was the reason they gave--"he is refusing to take his meds." the rest of his brothers resented her "tattling, " but none of them were willing to shoulder the responsibility of assuming his care.
  11. by   Destinystar
    i agree if anyone else objected to her inability to care for him than why didnt they step up to the plate and do it themselves. at his wifes age the custodial care was more responsibility than i am sure her or anyone else could have handled. if he was refusing his meds and probably everything else she had to of wondered what point there was in having him at home if he didn't appreciate it. i would have made the same decision. some people have not idea how labor intensive and emotionally draining it is to take care of a helpless and uncooperative person. at least the prison had the staff around the clock to tend to his needs. if he was abusive towards her i dont think he had anything good coming his way. sounds like his brothers are mentally abusive towards her. poor thing.
    Quote from stevierae
    no, actually i am a legal nurse consultant, and a colleague recently had a case cross his desk similar to the one i encountered in 1999. i told him about what the aclu attorney told me in 1999, and he stubbornly insisted that he was certain that prisoners had the same rights as people not incarcerated did. according to the feedback i am getting here, he is correct, so i am not certain why my aclu attorney client thought otherwise, but he did not proceed with the case on behalf of the prisoner in 1999.

    regarding my brother-in-law and his wife--oh, yes--she was in worse health then he was--they were both in their '70s, and frail--i am not certain why her husband was ever allowed to come home. i am assuming it was to allow him to die at home, but he was confused and would lash out at her physically when she tried to give him his meds, and he was an insulin dependent diabetic in addition to his other medical problems post-stroke.

    he could not speak, or at least he could not speak in a way that you could understand him. his wife, i think, was not exactly thrilled to have him home--in fact, he was physically and emotionally abusive to her before he was incarcerated and before his stroke, so i am sure having him gone was a relief to her. i saw the people come to get him, though, when we were there visiting, and that was the reason they gave--"he is refusing to take his meds." the rest of his brothers resented her "tattling, " but none of them were willing to shoulder the responsibility of assuming his care.
  12. by   stevierae
    Quote from destinystar
    sounds like his brothers are mentally abusive towards her. poor thing.
    no--on the contrary, i think they secretly respected her for doing what she did. she was actually living in one of the brother's houses, which is very, very nice, and she had plenty of privacy, because after her husband went to prison she lost her home--she had never worked outside the home, and was not educated enough or in good enough health to suddenly start doing so. she stilll lives in that brother's house, rent free, and all the brothers (and sisters, and children and grandchildren) help her out financially. i think they all feel relieved that he is not their problem, and he really is better off incarcerated. he was not a nice man.
    Last edit by stevierae on Jul 3, '04
  13. by   Brickman
    Is it possible that taking meds could be part of a parole agreement? I mean maybe a prisoner has the right to refuse but if it is a requirement for parole they have to return to prison if they do.
  14. by   jailDON
    Brickman, I think you are right. Many times medications or certain treatments are part of a parole or probation agreement.

    My experience is that inmates do have the right to refuse. If they are incompetent to make their own medical decisions, we get a court order for forced medications if their refusal will lead to harm or death.

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