HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Monday, October 31, 2005

Maine Docs Refuse to Force-Feed Prisoner

According to a recent article in the Bangor Daily News, James Emerson is a county jail inmate in Penobscot County who has been on a hunger strike for 17 days.  Subsisting on a diet of water and a few crackers, he has lost 20% of his body weight, which led a local judge to order the county sheriff to take him to Eastern Maine Medical Center (where I was born, more years ago than I would care to count) to get him fed against his will.  Once there, however, the hospital and its docs balked, saying the prisoner doesn't meet their medical criteria for insertion of an involuntary naso-gastric tube:

EMMC spokeswoman Jill McDonald said hospitals, in general, perform procedures only with the permission of the patient.

"We are not parties to court orders; we are under a different set of obligations," McDonald said late Friday night.

The whole field of incarceration and health care, including mental health treatments to make a patient competent to stand trial or to be punished, is fascinating.  Thanks to college classmate Rick Goggans for passing this story along.  I'll keep you posted on the results of this as the case unfolds.  [tm]

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