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The Hospitalized Prisoner With a Life-Threatening Illness: Criminal First and Patient Second?

Badger, James M. PhD, APRN, BC, ANP, BC; Ladd, Rosalind Ekman PhD; Friedemann, Glenn R. Esq

JONA’S Healthcare Law, Ethics, and Regulation: April/June 2012 - Volume 14 - Issue 2 - p 43–47
doi: 10.1097/NHL.0b013e3182570904

ABSTRACT It is generally accepted that the Patient’s Bill of Rights applies to all patients including prisoners. Yet, a prisoners’ incarcerated status generally prohibits inmates from making any decision that may shorten his/her life, and as such, the de facto medical decision maker becomes the medical director of the state correctional facility. This case study highlights the challenges that arise when the ethically appropriate response to a hospitalized prisoner’s terminal medical condition warrants decisions that are in conflict with that advocated by the correctional facility.

Author Affiliations: Department of Psychiatry, Rhode Island Hospital (Dr Badger and Mr Friedemann), and Brown University (Dr Ladd), Providence, Rhode Island.

The authors have disclosed that they have no significant relationship with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this article.

Correspondence: James M. Badger, PhD, APRN, BC, ANP, BC, Department of Psychiatry, Rhode Island Hospital, APC 948, 593 Eddy St, Providence, RI (

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.