An Idaho inmate is suing Corizon Health, claiming prison officials ignored an infection so long that his leg had to be amputated.
Gary L. Merchant, 65, said in a lawsuit filed last week that his pleas for help were ignored. Only after taking desperate measure and swallowing a razor blade did medical staff take him to a hospital. After being admitted, physicians found Merchant was suffering from a flesh-eating infection in his leg.
“It’s egregious,” said Merchant’s attorney, Jason Monteleone.
The Idaho Statesman, upon contacting Boise-based law firm Johnson & Monteleone, was told that Merchant’s medical care was so extensive that its records fill four separate boxes.
“The initial medical opinion that’s been obtained demonstrates not just reckless behavior but deliberate indifference,” said Monteleone. “I do a lot of correctional care cases, and I’ve not seen one this bad.”
Both defendants in the case – Corizon Health and the Idaho Department of Corrections – refused the chance to comment, citing policies about pending litigation and patient privacy statutes.
Merchant, writes the Statesman, was originally incarcerated in 2009 for a felony DUI charge. After being released, he was picked up again for driving under the influence in 2014. He’s not due for release from the Idaho State Correctional Institution in Kuna, ID, for another seven years.
According to the lawsuit, and as reported by the Statesman, Merchant had Crohn’s disease, “a chronic inflammatory disease of the digestive system that can cause serious complications without proper treatment.” Merchant and his attorneys claim he wasn’t given any medical assistance in managing his disorder. He also had a history of “congestive heart failure and had suffered a heart attack.”
Between January and February 2016, Merchant made numerous complaints about pain in his withering left leg. Medical providers at Kuna misdiagnosed the ailment, prescribing blood-thinners and a pressure sock to reduce swelling.
In the space of about a month, Merchant made five written requests asking for enhanced treatment and the opportunity to be treated in a hospital. His requests were either denied or ignored, forcing the man to decide that “he had no alternative but to swallow a small pencil-sharpener blade in order to force Corizon” to take him to a medical center in Boise.
His condition was so bad that surgeons at St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center immediately took him to the operating room. After making an attempt to remove the dead tissue engulfing Merchant’s left leg, doctors realized they had no option but to perform an amputation.
Two months after being admitted to St. Luke’s, Merchant was taken back to Kuna to continue his incarceration. He claims it took over half a year to be outfitted with a prosthetic device for his leg, leading to “preventable complications.”
Corizon, notes the Statesman and The Washington Post, has a history of providing sub-standard care to inmates under its ward. It’s faced over 100 lawsuits annually for the past five years – a figure provided by the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Corizon, which contracts with more than 500 jails and prisons in more than 20 states and rakes in at least $1.4 billion annually, has been plagued with accusations that it fails to meet basic medical needs, leading, in some cases, to inmates’ deaths,” the Washington Post reported in October. “Over the past few years, Corizon has paid millions of dollars to settle lawsuits filed by inmates and their families.”