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Washington v. Showalter

December 31, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley


Before the court is Defendant Mary Lou Showalter's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 37) pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Having been briefed, the matter is ripe for disposition.


Plaintiff Robert Washington ("Washington") brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming reckless indifference to his serious medical needs by Defendant Mary Lou Showalter, R.N. ("Showalter"). At all relevant times, Washington was an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Huntingdon"). Defendant Showalter is the Correctional Health Care Administrator at SCI-Huntingdon and is responsible for managing the health care services program at the prison. (Showalter Decl. at ¶¶ 1, 3 (Doc. 43); Def. Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ("SUMF") at ¶ 1 (Doc. 48)).

Plaintiff's complaint asserts that as a result of being placed in solitary confinement at the prison, he suffers from hallucinations which tell him to hurt himself and others. (Compl. at ¶ 4 (Doc. 1)). He has tried to commit suicide several times and suffers from suicidal ideation. (Id. at ¶ 5). He further avers that the prison continually places him in circumstances that lead to him to attempt to commit suicide. (Compl. at ¶ 6). Plaintiff claims that the defendants are purposely failing to provide him with proper mental health medical assistance, thus depriving him of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the laws of the United States. (Id. at ¶ 7). He also states that the defendants prevent him from receiving proper mental health treatment by failing to recommend him to a more appropriate facility with mental health treatment. (Id. at ¶ 8).

Washington's medical record establishes that he was transferred from SCI-Houtzdale to SCI-Huntingdon on August 8, 2006. (Medical Report ("MR") at 16, 210 (Docs. 44, 45)).*fn1 Washington was seen on August 11, 2006 by a psychiatrist, Dr. Altman, for complaints of hallucinations. (MR at 16, 210). The psychiatrist prescribed psychotropic medication and directed Washington to return to the clinic in thirty days for a follow-up evaluation. (MR at 16, 210). On August 17, 2006, an individual treatment plan was developed for Washington, which provided for weekly counseling sessions and monthly psychiatry reviews. (MR at 96).

The prison's nursing staff noted on September 8, 2006 that Washington had refused two doses of Sinequan, which is one of the psychotropic medications prescribed to treat Washington's mental health conditions. (MR at 158). Washington continued to refuse his prescribed psychotropic medication, Sinequan from September 10 to 21, 2009, missing a total of fifteen doses. (MR at 149 to 157). Because of this non-compliance, Washington's treating psychiatrist discontinued Washington's prescription of Sinequan on September 27, 2006. (MR at 16, 210).

On October 10, 2006, Washington missed an appointment with his treating psychiatrist, because he was placed in the restricted housing unit ("RHU") for misconduct. (MR at 210). At the treating psychiatrist's direction, the institution nursing staff rescheduled the appointment. (Id.)

Washington was evaluated by a nurse upon entering the RHU that day. (MR at 80). On October 26, 2006, Washington was seen by a psychiatrist and issued another prescription for Sinequan. (MR at 210). He was directed to return to the clinic in thirty days for follow-up. (Id.)

On November 9, 2006, a psychological services specialist saw Washington and noted that Washington was rational and that Washington denied having any thoughts of self-harm. (MR at 59). Another psychological services specialist evaluated Washington on November 13, 2006. (MR at 57). Washington reported stress from his confinement in the RHU but denied thinking suicidal thoughts. (Id.) The specialist counseled Washington on how to manage anxiety and discussed seeing a psychiatrist for medication to help with difficulty sleeping. (Id.) Washington was seen by a psychological services specialist again the next day, November 14, 2006, after a concerned call from Washington's mother. (MR at 58). Washington reported that he was stressed, but denied suicidal thoughts. (Id.)

Two weeks later, on November 29, 2006, Washington's cell-mate submitted a request slip stating that Washington had attempted to hang himself. (MR at 56). Washington told a psychological services specialist that he was experiencing auditory hallucinations, felt depressed and that Sinequan was not working for him. (Id.) Shortly after meeting with the psychological services specialist, psychiatrist Dr. Polmueller ordered that Washington be closely observed every fifteen minutes and that suicide precautionary measures be taken. (MR at 207).Washington remained under close observation from November 29, 2006 until December 6, 2006. (MR at 204 to 207, 240 to 250).

Later on November 29, 2006, another psychiatrist, Dr. Kirk, diagnosed Washington with major depression and prescribed Hydroxyzine, Thorazine, and Cogentin. (MR at 15, 20, 205). Dr. Kirk revisited Washington on November 30, 2006, but Washington would not speak to him. (MR at 21, 205). Washington's psychotropic medication was continued, but Washington refused a total of ten doses over November 29 and 30. (MR at 21, 146, 205).

Dr. Kirk saw Washington again on December 1, 2006. (MR at 21, 205). Washington stated that he was still suicidal but had improved over the last two days. (MR at 21, 205). Washington reported that he was suffering no adverse effects from the psychotropic medication that Dr. Kirk prescribed. (MR at 21). Dr. Kirk continued Washington's medications and directed that Washington remain under constant observation. (MR at 21, 205). Later that day, nursing staff noted that Washington had again refused his prescribed doses of Hydroxyzine, Thorazine, and Cogentin. (MR at 147).

On December 4, 2006 Washington was examined by Dr. Kirk who adjusted the dosages of Washington's Thorazine and Cogentin and prescribed Sinequan. (MR at 14, 204, 240). Washington was continued on constant observation. (MR at 14, 204, 240). Dr. Kirk examined Washington again on December 5, 2006. (MR at 204). Later ...

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