Medical malpractice and physician negligence impacts many Massachusetts residents every day. Although a medical malpractice incident can devastate a single patient’s family and friends, the substandard medical care that many Massachusetts prisoners receive is a growing concern that impacts all Massachusetts taxpayers.

An increasing number of medical malpractice lawsuits have started to come from Massachusetts prisons, suggesting that the use of low-cost health care for prisoners may be more expensive than lawmakers originally anticipated.

These new medical malpractice allegations come at a time when our state spends almost $100 million on prisoner care, the Sun Chronicle reports. An investigation done by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting suggests that the rising complaints about inadequate medical care expose taxpayers to steeper costs than money saved by providing low-cost care. These costs include the cost of defending malpractice lawsuits and treating medical conditions which could have been prevented.

Medical tests indicated that one inmate at a Massachusetts prison had chronic colitis in 2008. Instead of prescribing an anti-inflammatory drug to the patient, the doctors decided not to tell the patient about his colitis diagnosis until four months later. By this time, the patient’s condition had worsened to such a degree that he required major abdominal surgery.

The anti-inflammatory drug would have cost approximately $600 for a six-week therapeutic course, the Sun Chronicle reports. The prisoner’s subsequent ileostomy surgery cost taxpayers around $15,000 and the prisoner’s suppositories and colostomy bags cost approximately $600 each month.

“They saved $100 on a doctor visit and ended up spending thousands for surgery,” the former prisoner said, “The damage is done; I have to live with this every day.”

In our next post, we will examine the debate surrounding the Massachusetts prison system’s malpractice controversy.

Source: The Sun Chronicle, “An unhealthy policy,” Tom Puleo, Lisa Chedekel, 3/27/11