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DID STATE PRISON VIOLATE INMATE’S RIGHTS?

SHARE DID STATE PRISON VIOLATE INMATE’S RIGHTS?

A jury must decide whether Utah State Prison officials violated an inmate's civil rights when they failed to treat a medical problem that has since destroyed his health.

The eight-member jury began deliberating the question Wednesday evening after a three-week trial before 3rd District Judge John Rokich.Former inmate Roger Bott, 31, wants more than $4 million from the state because the prison failed to promptly treat a high blood pressure problem that has destroyed his kidneys, damaged his eyes and shortened his life.

If the jury returns a verdict in Bott's favor, he will also seek millions of dollars in punitive damages.

Bott was incarcerated at the prison from 1987 through 1989 on assault and escape charges.

He suffered high blood pressure when he entered the prison. However, the problem was not diagnosed and treated until October 1989. By that time, Bott's kidneys had shut down, he suffered hemorrhaging in his eyes, severe headaches and vomiting.

Bott says he complained about headaches and an inability to see for months before he was treated. He told medical staff about the problem three or four times a week, said Ross C. Anderson, Bott's attorney.

Bott called his parents from the prison and begged them to get him help, Anderson told the jury. Bott asked a fellow inmate to file a grievance on his behalf. By that time, Bott could not write.

But the state claims Bott understated the problem, saying only that he wanted to see the eye doctor because he needed glasses. Bott had several chances to get medical help and didn't take them, assistant attorney general David Carl-son told the jury. Shortly after arriving at the prison, Bott was offered a physical exam and turned it down.

The sloppy medical care at the prison violated Bott's civil rights, Anderson said. During Bott's time there, the prison had no system for identifying and treating chronic illnesses.

The prison paid local doctors up to $250 a day to spend only a few hours at the prison, Anderson said. Yet the prison wouldn't spend the little money required to set up a treatment program for ill patients. Health problems were not mentioned in patient's charts. When they were, doctors didn't review the charts, so they didn't know the patient was sick. Follow-up appointments were not made and tests were not ordered, Anderson said.

Former Corrections Director Gary DeLand and former medical director Blen Freestone knew medical care at the prison was inadequate, yet they ignored the problem, he said. DeLand and Freestone are defendants in the case.

The state says DeLand worked hard to solve the problem. He lobbied the Legislature for more money and hired outside consultants to analyze the medical department, identify the problems and suggest solutions, Carlson said.

He cited several audits of the medical department as well as a master medical plan drafted during DeLand's tenure at the prison.

Bott also sued nurse practitioner Dean Laney for medical malpractice. Laney was the man Bott repeatedly complained to. The only thing Laney did was put Bott's name on a two-month waiting list for an appointment with the eye doctor, Anderson said.

The prison's eye doctor saw Bott in late October 1989. He ordered Bott rushed to the University of Utah hospital. By that time, Bott was nearly blind, in severe pain and had lost 30 pounds, Anderson said.

Bott now undergoes daily kidney dialysis and is waiting for a kidney transplant. Bott's kidney failure knocked between five and 20 years off his life, experts testified at trial.