U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken heard arguments Wednesday in the case of a former Douglas County Jail inmate who alleged she was left in pain for months after being refused medication for a nerve condition.
Aiken urged the parties to pursue settlement talks.
Terri Carlisle is suing Kansas-based Correct Care Solutions and Roseburg doctor Steven Blum for allegedly cutting off her supply of Neurontin — a nonnarcotic pain reliever that treats nerve pain from a condition called neuropathy. Correct Care said the medication was stopped after she was found to have hoarded one of the pills rather than taking it.
Oral arguments were given Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Eugene by lawyers for the ACLU of Oregon, who represents Carlisle, and lawyers for Correct Care and Blum. It could take weeks or days before Aiken issues a ruling.
In an interview following oral arguments, ACLU attorney Kelly Simon said Carlisle wants to ensure that no other jail inmates are ever treated in the same way.
“We’re looking forward to the opportunity to see Correct Care do the right thing here, which is provide a remedy for the abuse they caused Ms. Carlisle to suffer and make sure that their policies are changed in a way that protects Oregonians and anyone in the country from having to endure what Ms. Carlisle had to endure and to make sure that any patient in custody is treated humanely and safely,” Simon said.
While she was serving her sentence at the jail in 2015, Carlisle’s medicine was withheld for 65 days despite her repeated complaints to staff and a plea from her family doctor, according to court documents.
Carlisle was serving a six-month sentence for driving under the influence of intoxicants. She had been taking Neurontin for 10 years prior to her incarceration. It was withheld after jail staff said they found she had hidden a single Neurontin pill, along with salt, a pencil sharpener, fingernail clippers, ibuprofen and a stool softener.
Carlisle had initially sued the Douglas County Jail as well, but reached a settlement with the jail in February.
Carlisle’s argument is based on the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects citizens from cruel and unusual punishment. Simon said it ensures the basic standards of a civilized society are met, and that means no one should endure the pain that Carlisle did while in jail.
“I think it’s very easy for me to understand that sitting idly by while someone is experiencing pain that she describes as having ice picks shoved in the end of her toes is not the mark of a civilized society. It is not human treatment,” she said. “Ms. Carlisle takes full accountability for the crimes that she was charged with, but nobody should be subjected to abuse, regardless of their worst decision or their worst day.”
She said Carlisle also deserves financial compensation for the pain she experienced.
Generally, the rights enshrined in the constitution are protections against government action; however, Simon said the law also says private actors can be held accountable when they are doing something that normally the government does.
Attorneys for Correct Care could not immediately be reached Wednesday afternoon.